M. LUNA CARGO CHERNOFF
I found my first punchcard when I was 19. It was lunchhour. I was in the library of my school, British Columbia Institute of Technology, between the cases of books. I could spend hours there. Often I did spend hours in that library, with lunchhour turning to afternoon, fading to evening, and then to dusk. I was drawn to the old textbooks, hardcover, bound in fabric, many with fading black lettering in bold, some with lettering in gold. They smelled as any old book should, musty of paper and discoloured where the hundreds of fingers had touched.
I still remember the first punchcard; punchcards are funny like that in that they instill a feeling of nostalgia for all those who have spent time with them; the more business books I read, the more it rings true. To quote Edward Thorp in his publication of A Man for All Markets (2017),
“The 704 was one of the early mainframe electronic computers, one of a series of increasingly powerful models developed by IBM. In those days, users entered instructions via punched cards roughly the size of a $1 bill. A card had eighty columns with ten oblong vertical marks in each column. I put cards, one at a time, in a keypunch and typed as I would on a typewriter; each time I hit a key the machine punched holes in a vertical line and shifted to the next column. The pattern of holes represented the letter, number, or symbol on that key.”
To say I was fascinated by the punchcards would do little justice to the fact- I was profoundly interested in them. I thought there were beautiful, a piece of art in and of themselves. I realized that there was an archaic reverence in the photographs that I found in those books. Coupled with the photographs, the images from the very books I found the cards in, many of which were on the DISCARD cart near the exit of the library. I had to do something with them- and so I did.