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Herman Hollerith

engineer, computer inventor
Born: 2/29/1860
Birthplace: Buffalo, N.Y.

When children ask their parents, “Where did computers come from?” one answer might be, “From the entrepreneurial vision that underlies the strength of the American economy.” Like any other entrepreneur, Hollerith saw a need and made a product to meet that need, and in so doing created one of the first computers. Working on the 1880 census, Hollerith saw scores of people poring over reams of statistical data and thought, “there must be a more efficient method.” As he worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Patent Office (1884–90), he developed a machine for tabulating data coded onto punch cards. The machine was used in the 1890 census, and he started the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896 to work on new and improved versions of the machine, which he eventually sold to other countries for use in their census tabulations. He merged the company with others to become the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (1911), and changed the name to International Business Machines Company in 1924.

Died: 11/17/1929

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