Back in an era when the key punching department was dominated by women, the punch card meant one mistake would require doing the whole card over again. It was a time where FORTRAN, RPG, and IBM Assembler programming languages were among the most popular and punch cards where the only means of data entry. From a historical and civil rights standpoint, programming and punch cards could be seen as one of the great influences that “allowed” women into the work force.
To the right is a group of about 20 keypunch operators in the 1940’s working for the Social Security Administration. It’s not often that technology has such a direct impact on civil rights, but the punch card did just that.
It wouldn’t be until the 1950’s that magnetic tape would be used for data entry. However, punch cards were still in use all the way up to the 1980’s. Somehow, I imagine no one is missing them, but their contribution to civil rights is admirable all the same.