[SIGCIS-Members] The first informationexplosion in history

Richard Vahrenkamp vahrenkamp2 at gmx.de
Tue Dec 6 00:13:27 PST 2022


please excuse the "self-promotion":
The keyword of the information explosion will be filled in my ebook “The
First Information Explosion”. Many examples are given how the use of
punch card technology expands the demand for information. The book gives
evidence for the suggestion of Theo Pirker that formalization of
information induces the growth of the information department in
enterprises so that the rationalization is absorbed by expansion. This
process is labeled as informationexplosion and the paper portrays the
first informationexplosion in history induced by punch card technology.
On the basis of the sources, it can be demonstrated in this ebook that
the use of punch card technology gave rise to more and more fields of
application in the field of commercial data processing. This expansive
behavior of information technology can be described by the term
informationexplosion. Just as in the fission of the uranium atom 235, a
splitting neutron leads to the emission of two more neutrons, triggering
a chain reaction with explosion, the introduction of punch card
technology in one field creates a hunger for formalized information in
neighboring fields and a further expansion of punch card-based analysis.

The ebook places punch card (also: punched card) technology in the
context of the office machine industry in Germany and discusses the
exciting relationship between the two competitors on the market for
punch card technology, IBM with its German branch Dehomag and Powers, in
Germany, 1909–1939. The punch card technology was based on
electrical–mechanical machines as the other office machines before the
advent of microelectronics. The question is whether the leading role of
the United States in the use of office machines frequently cited by
Anglo-American authors really applies. How punch card technology in
Germany has advanced from its beginnings is discussed under the heading
of rationalisation strategies. The technologies of the punching machine,
the sorting machine and the tabulating machine are shown and an example
of tabulating a sales table is given. At the example of a chocolate
producer a punched card is discussed of how the various products of the
chocolate plant are organized on the card.

It is interesting to note that the first informationexplosion in history
occurred in the field of commercial data processing, not in the field of
scientific–technical data processing. Moreover, punch card technology in
the first half of the 20th century was characterized by merely slow
technical progress, so that the benefits of information processing had
not increased through rapid technical progress, as was seen in the
second half of the 20th century with microelectronics underlining the
expansive power of punch card technology. The ebook focusses on evidence
of informationexplosion in Germany. But the arguments apply to other
countries as well. Two sources are cited from Bethlehem Steel Works –
one of the leading steel works in United States. Bethlehem steel works
are an interesting case because Frederic Winslow Taylor worked there as
consultant, but he did not mention punch card technology at all.

The ebook concludes with an overview of how punch card technology fits
into the broader debate about the feminisation of the office.

The ebook is available at Amazon.

With kind regards from Berlin
Richard Vahrenkamp

Prof. Dr. Richard Vahrenkamp
Logistik Consulting Berlin
Phone 0177- 628 3325
E-Mail: Vahrenkamp2 at gmx.de
Web: www.vahrenkamp.org
Heubnerweg 11
14059 Berlin


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