Job Cards

Part of the Punched Card Collection
by Douglas W. Jones
THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA Department of Computer Science

Each deck of punched cards submitted to a computer center described one job for the computer to do. These headers were known as job cards. Typically, a batch of cards input to the computer would consist of many decks, so the job cards needed to be distinctive so that the computer operators could separate the decks after they had been read.

Sometimes, information on the job card was intended for the computer operator, but most of the content of job cards was for the computer's operating system. Jobs generally had a name, an indication of who to bill for the resources used, and limits on resource usage.


Click on any image for a high-resolution version. All images were scanned at 600 dpi and edited to remove streaks caused by bad (or dust occluded) pixels in the scanner. Note that, prior to 1978, all material printed in the US without a copyright notice was automatically in the public domain; this also applies to most material printed before 1989 without a notice. Beware, however, that institutional logos are typically protected by trademark law and cannot be used in a manner that conflicts with the trademark owner's rights.

A very generic job card

 [Generic job card]

So long as the job card was obvious, nothing other than computer center policy required the use of any special kind of card. Some computer centers required nothing particularly special; this job card was used at the head of a FORTRAN program written by the late Lloyd Knowler, a member of the Statistics faculty at the University of Iowa.

Aside from the distinctive green color, it has absolutely nothing to identify it as a job card other than the keyword "JOB" punched on the card itself, in the format expected by OS/360, the operating system of the IBM System 360.

The handwritten 232 on this card may have been added by the computer operator.

Less generic job cards

 [Generic job card]

This card was printed for use as a job card, with no hint of the intended operating system or insitution. It came to this collection with several cards specific to CDC systems running the NOS operating system, so it is fair to infer that this card was used with at least one CDC computer running NOS. The plate number, SFS 72-5250 conveys little, unless perhaps 72 refers to the year 1972.

 [Generic job card]

Another card printed for use as a job card. Hummel was a major producer of punched cards in Germany. Here, they have based their design on a standard punched card, with hence the legend JOB-KARTE added to indicate the card's intended purpose.

Carnegie Tech Computation Center

 [Carnegie Tech job card]

This is a classic job card from the mid 1960's, with blanks for hand-writing key information about the job, as well as pre-formatted fields for punching much of the same information and more. This card includes a blank for system-name, appropriate for an era when the computer center had several different batch systems, and the blank for a hand-written time limit supports older batch systems where resource limits were not automatically enforced.

Gesamthochschulbereich Dortmund (Dortmund University)

 [Dortmund University Job Card]

The Hochschulrechenzentrum or HRZ (university computer center) of Gesamthochschulbereich Dortmund or GHD (Dortmund Technical University) used this job card in the late 1970s. The card is pre-punched with the skeleton of an OS/370 job card, with ample space for the user to fill in things like the job name and particulars.

University Maryland

 [University of Maryland job card]

This job card from the Computer Science Center is unusual in that it comes pre-punched, serial numbered, and with a stub that the user can keep as a receipt in order to reclaim their job after it is run. It is fairly clear that this card was not intende to be punched by the user, since it would not fit in common keypunches with the stub attached. Rather, the user was expected to handwrite key information on the card before submitting it. The CSC had a Univac 1108 in the 1960s and early 1970s. This job card would have been for that system, judging by the notation 1100/80 on the card.

University of New South Wales

 [University of New South Wales punched card]

This card from the University of New South Wales is intended for use as a job card or a user card for the University's CDC Cyber computer. There are no instructions on the card for the layout of either card, but the column divisions shown along the top of the card relate to FORTRAN and assembly language.

Ohio State University

 [Ohio State University job card

This job card from Ohio State is fairly typical of OS/360 job cards, although it explains the job card format in more detail than is typical and offers a timeless warning about not sharing computer access credentials.

Princeton University Computer Center

 [Princeton job card]

This job card is prepunched with //JOB in the first 6 columns, this was the standard start of a job card under OS/360. Prepunching the card prevented computer center users from using these cards for other purposes. The fine print on the right side of the card describes many of the options allowed by OS/360. One puzzling feature of this card is that the explanatory information filling the center of the card doesn't align in any useful way with the card columns, although the graphics suggest that such an alignment was intended.

 [Princeton University batch job card]

This job card from Princeton is intended for batch jobs. Those are jobs where some piece of code, for example, the PL/C compiler, is loaded into memory and then a batch of jobs all requiring that compiler is run, eliminating the need to re-load the compiler for each job in that batch. This was a common way to improve the efficiency of computer use before virtual memory, reentrant code and similar technologies made loading time almost irrelevant.

Each of the batch-oritnted utilities supported by this card seems to have had a distinctly different job card format, and the card tries to document all of them.

Rutherford Laboratories

 [Rutherford Laboratories blue job card]

Rutherford Labs, near Harwell, used this job card for their IBM 360 Model 95 computer in the 1970s. The card includes useful layout guidelines for the contents of an OS/360 job card.

Stanford University

 [Stanford University job card]

This card appears to be from the 1961-1966 era, when Stanford had a Burroughs B5000 (upgraded in 1965 to a B5500) and an IBM 7090. The prepunched text "$JOB" in columns 1 through 4 allows the card to be dated to before 1967 when Stanford got an IBM System 360/67; on that machine, job cards always began with "// JOB". Unlike the Carnegie Tech card, it has no fields for handwritten information. It also lacks the interesting artwork, perhaps because it is clearly intended to be the second card in a 2-card sequence. The graphic design parallels between this card and the Princeton job card are striking, but puzzling, since they are clearly for different computer systems.

Thanks to Mark C. Lawrence at Stanford for his notes on the history of Stanford's computer systems.

Stone and Webster Engineering

 [Stone and Webber job card]

Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation, established in 1889 and based Massachusetts, is big enough that it had an IBM 360-family mainframe in the punched-card era. This card has the classic format of an OS-360 job card, although some fields hint at an operation in just one building. Where a university job card would have a user name and account number, this card has the building floor and submitter. With this information, it's possible to imagine a clerk returning user card decks and the output from the job from the computer room to the submitter's desk.

Stockholms Datamaskincentral (computer center)

 [Stockholm job card]

This job card from the Stockholm computer center is punched with an IBM OS/360 job statement. The shade of green used on the cardstock here is unique, far more assertive than the usual drab or pastel shades used on the other colored punched cards in this collection.

Thyssen AG

 [Thyssen AG job card]

This job control card from Thyssen AG has a marginal date of 10/79 in the upper right. Thyssen's corporate logo on this card is far smaller than necessary. The card itself is formatted for a number of different commands for the IBM System 360/370 Job Control Language. The topmost line on the card explains the initial format of a job card, while the other lines give guidance for the formats of other commands. This is one of the few job cards in the collection that suggests using the same color of card for both the job card and other cards that might be scattered through the card deck of a job.

University of Virginia

 [University of Virginia job card]

This University of Virginia job card for their CDC 6600 system gives no hint about the format of the information required on a job card, but it is emphatic in reminding users to put a job card at the front of their card deck.

University of Washington

 [University of Washington green job card]
 [University of Washington orange job card]

These job cards for the University of Washington's Burroughs 6700 computer were used for administrative data processing jobs. In this era, the university computer center would frequently have just one mainframe computer, supporting both academic and administrative computing, but it was (and still is) important to keep the admininistrative and academic data strictly separated, so a distinctly different job card would typically be used for administrative jobs. Both cards are printed from the same artwork; the reason for the different colors is unknown. The B6700 computer was introduced in the early 1970s, so these cards must date from that era.