General Purpose Punched Cards

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

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.

IBM 5081

 [IBM 5081 card with round corners on cream stock]
 [IBM 5081 card with square corners on cream stock]  [IBM 5081 card with square corners on blue stock]
 [IBM 5081 card with a left corner cut on pink stock]  [IBM 5081 card with a right corner cut on pink stock]

The IBM 5081 was the most common punched card, imitated by almost every other manufacturer of cards and the basis of many institutional variations. The number referred only to the printing, not to the color of the cardstock, nor to whether the corners were rounded or whether one or the other corner was cut. Those were distinct options the customer could specify.

All of the above cards were printed by IBM. The number 5081 is not a plate number, but rather, the number of the artwork from which the plate was made. You can tell that two of the above cards were very likely printed from the same plate, the pink card with the cut corner on the left, and the blue card. because of defects in row 0 column 1, row 3 column 3, row 3 column 80 and several other smaller defects.

IBM 5076 (U.S. Bicentennial)

 [A United States Bicentennial commemorative punch-card]

IBM offered this souvenir/commemorative version of the 5081 under the style number 5076. The image of the Liberty Bell honors the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in 1976. IBM was still selling significant numbers of punched cards in the bicentennial year, but cards were in decline.

IBM 507536

 [IBM 507536, a minimally printed card]

The IBM 507536 is a mostly blank card, with just enough row and column numbers that a person with a straight-edge (perhaps another card) could figure out the row and column of a punch. The marginal row and column numbers on this card would be good for that purpose.

Most cards made had one top corner cut, and many had no corners cut. This particular example is unusual because it has both top corners cut. A more subtle feature of this card that is unusual is that the print is very black. The print on most cards is significantly fainter, perhaps simply because far more ink was needed for typical card designs.

IBM Deutschland Nr. 5

 [IBM Germany made a small variation on the 5081]

IBM Deutschland (Germany) made a very small change to the 5081 card layout, moving the bottom row of column numbers up from below the 9 row to between the 8 and 9 rows. They produced this as their Nr. 5 card. The word Ziffernkarte in the right margin means "numeric card."

Advanced Business Forms 5081

 [Advanced 5081 card with round corners on blue stock]
 [Advanced 5081 card with round corners on salmon stock]

The Advanced Business Forms 5081 clone uses a slightly smaller but bolder font than IBM used for the grid of row numbers.

Control Data Corporation 5081

 [CDC 5081 card with round corners on blue stock]
 [CDC 5081 card with round corners on gold stock]  [CDC 5081 card with round corners on green stock]
 [CDC 5081 card with round corners on pink stock]  [CDC 5081 card with round corners on salmon stock]

CDC used a much bolder font than Advanced for its 5081 clone, and the Advanced clone was was bold compare to IBM's font. CDC's font is intermediate in size between IBM (tall) and Advanced (squat). Note that the orange and yellow cards shown here were printed from the same printing plate. The evidence is matching damage to the number 5081 in the lower left margin.

Data Documents 5081

 [DD 5081 card with a pink stripe]
 [DD 5081 card with the left corner cut]  [DD 5081 card with the right corner cut]
 [DD 5081 card on green stock]  [DD 5081 card on green stock]

DD used a font for the grid of row numbers that is indistinguishable from the font used by Advanced, while the font used for the column numbers is much coarser. DD prepared two distinct versions of the artwork for their 5081 clone, one with no indication of where the card was printed, and one saying PRINTED IN U.S.A on the lower left.

Note that one of the DD cards shown here has the diagonal cut on the right, while all the others have the cut on the left. The printing plate number has nothing to do with which corner was cut.

Electronic Accounting Card 5081

 [EAC 5081 card]

EAC, although later purchased by CDC, did not use the fonts CDC used for their 5081 card, but it seems that EAC and Advanced used the same fonts.

ICL Dataset 00-353

 [ICL Dataset 00-353 card]

The Dataset subsidiary of ICL produced this card. It is essentially the same as the earlier ICT 4-353, and there is no obvious reason for ICL-Dataset changing the number to 00-353.

This card is unusual in that it has no corner cut.

International Computers Limited 4-354

 [ICL 4-354 card]

ICL New Zealand made this card; note that it retains the 4-354 style number used by ICT, but note also the removal of the two lines of dashes that ICT added to the card, making this card an exact clone of the IBM 5081.

International Computers and Tabulators 4-353

 [ICT 4-353 card]

The ICT 4-353 card omits many of the row numbers that cutter the IBM 5081. This leaves more white space that might be useful for annotation, while giving enough row numbers that users can easily identify the row-numbers of a punch in an unprinted part of the card by reference to the number printed above or below. The division of the 12 rows on the card into 4 groups of 3 would also simplify visual reading of column binary data in octal.

International Computers and Tabulators 4-354

 [ICT 4-354 card]

For all practical purposes, the ICT 4-354 card is a clone of the IBM 5081, but lines of dashes have been added between rows 3 and 4 and rows 6 and 7. Perhaps these helped people read column-binary data in octal.

Information Supplies Corporation 5081

 [ISC 5081 card with a yellow stripe]
 [ISC 5081 card on blue stock]

ISC appears to have used the same fonts as Data Documents for their 5081 clone. Note that these cards were printed from plates prepared from two different masters, with the ISC 5081 notation positioned differently in the lower left. The printing plate used on the cream card was near its end of life, with significant indications of wear.

Note that one ISC cards shown here has a left corner cut, the other a right cut, but the same plate number.

Jersey Tab Card 5081

 [JTC 5081 card on green stock]
 [JTC 5081 card on pink stock]

The JTC clone of the 5081 uses fonts that are very similar to those used by CDC, slightly taller than the font Advanced used for their 5081 clone.

Mid-Continent Tab Card 5081

 [Mid-Continental (MIDCO) 5081 card on green stock]

The Midco clone of IBM's 5081 uses a font slightly smaller than IBM used, but like IBM, quite slim. The vast majority of the 5081-style cards from competitors used a bolder font.


 [MOEFTNI 6198-75 card with a yellow stripe]

This МОЭФТНИ (MOEFTNI) card appears to have been printed in 1981, and conforms to the ГОСТ (GOST) 6198-75 standard, presumably the 1975 revision of ГОСТ 6198-64.

The typography on the anonymous and quite similar ГОСТ 6198-64 card seems distinctly cleaner than the type used on this card.

Punched Card Services 5081

 [Punched Card Services 5081 card with a yellow stripe]

PCS used the same fonts for their 5081 clone as Advanced and EAC. The printing plate used for this card is quite battered, particularly toward the left end of the 7 row.

Reichenbach 1-1

 [Reichenbach 5081 card]

The Reichenbach style number 1/1 card was as generic as IBM's 5081, but copies (without mentioning it) the Soviet ГОСТ (GOST) 6198-64 in many details; Reichenbach was in the German Democratic Republic — East Germany. The printers in Reichenbach added a third row of column numbers between rows 4 and 5, and unlike the Soviet card, they used a smaller font for the column numbers.

Техноинформ (Technoinform) 57.28.105-86

 [Technoinform 57.28.105-86 card]
 [Technoinform 57.28.105-86 card, reversed marginal text]

Техноинформ (Technoinform) apparently printed these cards in 1986. The fonts used are much bolder than the earlier МОЭФТНИ (MOEFTNI) 6198-75 or Anonymous ГОСТ (GOST) 6198-64 cards; in fact, they are the boldest print of any of the cards here that are practical equivalents of the IBM 5081.

There is no explanation for Техноинформ preparing two different versions of the artwork for this card with the marginal notations switched left for right.

A collector in Russia has posted an image of a card from Техноинформ with an apparent date of 1976, with ГОСТ 6198-75 in the margin. Given the existance of the МОЭФТНИ 6198-75, this suggests that either МОЭФТНИ was competing with Техноинформ or that there was a name change in the 1975-1976 era.

Anonymous 5081-style cards

 [Anonymous 5081 card]
 [Anonymous 5081 card on pink stock]  [Anonymous 5081 style card]

Most card vendors made a point of identifying themselves on the card, but sometimes, this was not the case. Two of the above cards have a marginal note giving the card style number 5081. One has no note at all. All are clones of the IBM 5081.

These cards probably come from different vendors, since there are slight differences in the artwork. The first 5081 card above uses a larger font than most, as large as IBM's font but somewhat bolder. The other two use fonts comparable to those Advanced used.

Anonymous ГОСТ (GOST) 6198-64

 [ICL Dataset 00-353 card]

This card from the Soviet Union appears to have been printed from a plate designed in 1968, based on a 1964 standard. ГОСТ (GOST) is the name of a major standards organization, the Soviet (and post-Soviet) equivalent of ANSI in the United States of DIN in Germany. ГОСТ 6198-64 would therefore identify the standard to which the card was manufactured, not the printer. The text on the right simply says "manufactured in USSR."

Regardless, the printing plate appears to bear the date 1968. This card is printed on rather low-quality stock, but within the tolerances required by punched-card equipment. For practical purposes this card is equivalent to IBM's 5081, but most of the odd numbers have been dropped from the column numbers, and the bottom row of column numbers has been moved up to betwee the 8 and 9 rows.

It is possible that МОЭФТНИ (MOEFTNI) printed this card, but the typography of this card is noticably better than the typography on the МОЭФТНИ (MOEFTNI) 6198-75 card.