Skip to content

Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for September, 2009
by Gerald Boerner


“If I knew how to take a good photograph, I’d do it every time.”
— Robert Doisneau

“I hate collectors, the ones who take something just for themselves.” — Robert Doisneau

“The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.”
— Robert Doisneau

“If you take photographs, don’t speak, don’t write, don’t analyse yourself, and don’t answer any questions.”
— Robert Doisneau

“A photographer who made a picture from a splendid moment, an accidental pose of someone or a beautiful scenery, is the finder of a treasure.”
— Robert Doisneau

“I don’t usually give out advice or recipes, but you must let the person looking at the photograph go some of the way to finishing it. You should offer them a seed that will grow and open up their minds.”
— Robert Doisneau

“I like people for their weaknesses and faults. I get on well with ordinary people. We talk. We start with the weather, and little by little we get to the important things. When I photograph them it is not as if I were examining them with a magnifying glass, like a cold and scientific observer. It’s very brotherly. And it’s better, isn’t it, to shed some light on those people who are never in the limelight.”
— Robert Doisneau

“You’ve got to struggle against the pollution of intelligence in order to become an animal with very sharp instincts – a sort of intuitive medium – so that to photograph becomes a magical act, and slowly other more suggestive images begin to appear behind the visible image, for which the photographer cannot be held responsible.”
— Robert Doisneau

“The photographer must be absorbent–like a blotter, allow himself to be permeated by the poetic moment…. His technique should be like an animal function…he should act automatically.”
— Robert Doisneau

“Chance is the one thing you can’t buy. You have to pay for it and you have to pay for it with your life, spending a lot of time, you pay for it with time, not the wasting of time but the spending of time.”
— Robert Doisneau

“A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there – even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity.”
— Robert Doisneau

“Nowadays people’s visual imagination is so much more sophisticated, so much more developed, particularly in young people, that now you can make an image which just slightly suggests something, they can make of it what they will.”
— Robert Doisneau


Robert Doisneau (1912 – 1994)

800px-Robert_Doisneau_in_his_studio_in_Montrouge,_1992Robert Doisneau was a French photographer noted for his frank and often humorous depictions of Parisian street life.

He studied engraving at the Ecole Estienne in Chantilly, but found his training antiquated and useless upon graduation. He learned photography in the advertising department of a pharmaceutical firm. He began photographing details of objects in 1930. He sold his first photo-story to the Excelsior newspaper in 1932. He was a camera assistant to the sculptor Andrei Vigneaux and did military service prior to taking a job as an industrial and advertising photographer for the Renault auto factory at Billancourt in 1934. Fired in 1939, he took up freelance advertising and postcard photography to earn his living.

On Photography…

DOISNEAUimg_Paris--les-chats--la-nuit Doisneau was exposed to photography in the advertising department of a pharmaceutical firm. He embraced this new-found interest in photography and largely taught himself. Outside of his job, he began to see photography as a medium for at first a hobby–recording every day life during his wanderings through the streets of Paris. He began photographing details of objects in 1930. He sold his first photo-story to the Excelsior newspaper in 1932. He was a camera assistant to the sculptor Andrei Vigneaux and did military service prior to taking a job as an industrial and advertising photographer for the Renault auto factory at Billancourt in 1934. He was fired in 1939 and was forced to try freelance advertising and postcard photography to earn his living.

The postcards were a major outlet for photographers at the time and France had Europe’s largest industry. Post cards in the early 20th century served the purpose of modern greeting cards as well as vacation souvenirs, although this was changing in the 1930s. Doisneau was hired by the Rapho photo agency in 1939 and worked there for several months until the inset of World War II.

Robert Doisneau was one of France’s most popular and prolific reportage photographers. He was known for his modest, playful, and ironic images of amusing juxtapositions, mingling social classes, and eccentrics in contemporary Paris streets and cafes. Influenced by the work of Kertész, Atget, and Cartier-Bresson, in over 20 books Doisneau has presented a charming vision  of human frailty and life as a series of quiet, incongruous moments. Doisneau has written:

"The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street."

Robert Doisneau worked for the Rapho photo agency for several months until he was drafted in 1939. He was a member of the Resistance both as a soldier and as a photographer, using his engraving skills to forge passports and identification papers. He photographed the Occupation and Liberation of Paris.

World War II…

Doisneau was drafted in 1939. He was a member of the Resistance both as a soldier and as a photographer. While his training in engraving was not helpful in his attempts to get a job, it proved invluable to the Resistance. He used his engraving skills to forge passports and identification papers. He photographed the Occupation and Liberation of Paris. some of these images, especially of the liberation of Paris are photographic masterpices. His classic photographs capture the exileration and joy of liberation in Paris like no other photographer.

Post War Period…

Some of Doisneau’s most remembered photographs were taken in the post-war era. He returned to freelance work and sold photographs to Life and other important international magazines. He joined the Alliance photo agency for a short time and began working with Rapho again in 1946. Against his better judgment Doisneau did high-society and fashion photography for Paris Vogue from 1948 to 1951. During his assignments with Vogue, the photographer became acquainted with high-society circles, for which, however, he did not have as much sympathy as he did for the common people in the streets.

doisneau_musician All through this period, however, he took realistic photographs of daily life on the streets of Paris. These are the photographs we remember him for and many of his high-society photographs are virtually forgotten. Certainly the appeal to the French was his ability to capture the simple joys of everyday life–so much more meaningful after the dark days of NAZI occupation.

He joined the Alliance photo agency for a short time and has worked for Rapho since 1946. Against his inclinations, Doisneau did high-society and fashion photography for Paris Vogue from 1948 to 1951. In addition to his reportage, he has photographed many French artists including Giacometti, Cocteau, Leger, Braque, and Picasso.

doisneau_baiserAmong his most recognizable work is Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville), a photo of a couple kissing in the busy streets of Paris. The identity of the couple was a mystery until 1993, when Denise and Jean-Louis Lavergne took Doisneau to court for taking the picture without their knowledge. This action prompted Doisneau to reveal that he posed the shot in 1950 using actor/models Françoise Bornet and Jacques Carteaud. Françoise was given an original print as part of her payment. In April 2005 she sold the print for 155,000 at an auction. All in all Paris was one of the favorite photographic subjects of Doisneau.

Doisneau’s work gives unusual prominence and dignity to children’s street culture; returning again and again to the theme of children at play in the city, unfettered by parents. His work treats their play with seriousness and respect.

“I’m not a collector at heart. I’m never tormented by the longing to possess things. I’m quite happy with my pictures. I’ve been cohabiting with them for years now and we know each other inside out, so I feel I’m entitled to say that pictures have a life and a character of their own. Maybe they’re like plants they won’t really flourish unless you talk to them. I haven’t gone that far – not yet anyway. Lots of them behave like good little girls and give me a nice smile whenever I walk past, but others are real bitches and never miss any opportunity to ruin my life. I handle them with kid gloves.”
— Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau won the Prix Kodak in 1947. He was awarded the Prix Niépce in 1956 and acted as a consultant to Expo ’67, Canada. A short film, Le Paris de Robert Doisneau, was made in 1973.


The photography of Robert Doisneau has enjoyed a revival in the last ten years or so. Many of his portraits and photos of Paris from the end of World War II through the 1950’s have been turned into calendars and postcards and have becomes icons of French life. Perhaps his most famous photograph is "Kiss in front of the Palace of City Hall." This photograph has been reproduced by the millions and is perhaps the most famous French photograph. It became a symbol of young, boisterous love in Paris–of course the city most associated with love. The realism of Doisneau’s photographs make a wonderful record of both style and lifestyle. In addition to his reportage photography, he has photographed many noted artists including Giacometti, Cocteau, Leger, Braque, and Picasso.

The Recipe…

Doisneau writes of his photography, "In fact there isn’t any recipe – that would be too easy – but all these images that are growing old so gracefully were taken instinctively. I put all my trust in intuition, which contributes so much more than rational thought. This is a commendable approach, because you need courage to be stupid – it’s so rare these days when there are so many intelligent people all over the place who’ve stopped looking because they’re so knowledgeable. Yet that little extra something supplied by the model is precisely a `look,’ like a legacy handed down to you from the distant past. It shoots straight along the optical axis and bores right through the photographer, the celluloid, the paper, and the viewer, like a laser beam scorching everything in its path, including, and a very good thing too, your critical faculties."


Doisneau_classroom Some of Doisneau’s most appealing photographs are those of French childhood–perhaps the best ever taken. He took photographs on the street as well as homes and schools. Some were candid. Others were posed. As he photographed extensively from the 1930s-50s, his photographs record not only the texture of French, but developing fashion patterns before, during, and after World War II. The images provide a wonderful record of the clothes sworn by children during the period and thus is very useful to HBC.


Doisneau won the Prix Kodak in 1947. He was awarded the Prix Niépce in 1956 and acted as a consultant to Expo ’67, Canada. A short film, "Le Paris de Robert Doisneau", was made in 1973. Doisneau has been the subject of major retrospectives at the Bibliotecque Nationale in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and the Witkin Gallery in New York City.

Doisneau has been the subject of major retrospectives at the Bibliotecque Nationale in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and the Witkin Gallery in New York City. A shy and unassuming man, Doisneau lives in the Paris suburb of Montrouge.

Later Years…

Doisneau was in many ways a shy and unassuming man, rather like his photography. He lived in the Paris suburb of Montrouge. He died in 1994.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Robert Doisneau that can be found at:

Also, an article on Robert Doisneau found in: 
Peter Stepan. (2008) 50 Photographers You Should Know. New York: Prestel.

by Gerald Boerner


“All 200 of the bombes built for Bletchley were destroyed after the war, so cloaked in secrecy was the project.”
— Alan Turing, mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist

“The bombe was the key to cracking the German code known as Enigma, which Hitler’s regime believed unbreakable, and in doing so it helped to win the Battle of Britain in 1940 and the Battle of the Atlantic in 1942-43.”
— Alan Turing, mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist

“Without Bletchley the war could have lasted another two years. That would have meant atomic weapons in Europe, more and more devastating weapons and many, many more deaths. … That’s why we believed it was necessary to have this machine available for schoolchildren, and adults, to see exactly what the contribution of this remarkable place was like.”
— Frank Carter, Mathematician

"It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War II could well have been very different,"  said. "He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war."
— Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister

“Upon British declaration of war on 3 September [1939], Turing took up full-time work at the wartime cryptanalytic headquarters, Bletchley Park. The Polish work was limited as it depended upon the very particular way the Germans had been using the Enigma. One of their ideas was embodied in a machine called a Bomba. The way forward lay in Turing’s generalization of the Polish Bombe into a far more powerful device, capable of breaking any Enigma message where a small portion of plaintext could be guessed correctly.”
— Douglas Ravenel, Professor at University of Rochester

“Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically as the exercise of a combination of two facilities, which we may call intuition and ingenuity.”
— Alan Turing, mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist

“I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.”
— Alan Turing, mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist

“In the time of Galileo it was argued that the texts, ‘And the sun stood still … and hasted not to go down about a whole day’ (Joshua x. 13) and ‘He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not move at any time’ (Psalm cv. 5) were an adequate refutation of the Copernican theory.”
— Alan Turing, mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist

“Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically as the exercise of a combination of two facilities, which we may call intuition and ingenuity. The activity of the intuition consists in making spontaneous judgements [sic] which are not the result of conscious trains of reasoning… The exercise of ingenuity in mathematics consists in aiding the intuition through suitable arrangements of propositions, and perhaps geometrical figures or drawings.”
— Alan Turing, mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist


The Bombe

The bombe was an electromechanical device used by British cryptologists to help break German Enigma-machine-generated signals during World War II. The bombe was designed by Alan Turing, with an important refinement suggested by Gordon Welchman.

TuringBombeBletchleyPark The bombe was named after, and inspired by, a device that had been designed in 1938 by Polish Cipher Bureau cryptologist Marian Rejewski, and known as the "cryptologic bomb" (Polish: "bomba kryptologiczna"). The British bombe was referred to by Group Captain Winterbotham as a "Bronze Goddess" because its case was made of bronze.[1] The devices were more prosaically described by operators as being "like great big metal bookcases".

A standard German Enigma employed, at any one time, a set of three rotors (in the German Navy, from early 1942, four rotors), each of which could be set in any of 26 positions. The bombe tried each possible rotor position and applied a test. The test eliminated thousands of positions of the rotors; the few potential solutions were then examined by hand. In order to use a bombe, a cryptanalyst first had to produce a "crib" – a section of ciphertext for which he could guess the corresponding plaintext.

Developer: Alan Turing

Alan_Turing_Memorial_Closer Alan Turing, was a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist. Turing is often considered to be the father of modern computer science. He provided an influential formalization of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine. In 1999 Time Magazine named Turing as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century for his role in the creation of the modern computer, stating: "The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.”

During the Second World War, Turing worked at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre, and was for a time head of Hut 8, the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers.

Turing had a strong predeliction for working things out from first principles, usually in the first instance without consulting any previous work on the subject, and no doubt it was this habit which gave his work that characteristically original flavor. I was reminded of a remark which Beethoven is reputed to have made when he was asked if he had heard a certain work of Mozart which was attracting much attention. He replied that he had not, and added "neither shall I do so, lest I forfeit some of my own originality."
— James H. Wilkinson, "Some Comments from a Numerical Analyst", 1970 Turing Award lecture, Journal of the ACM 18:2 (February 1971), pp. 137–147

The Enigma machine

The German Army and Air Force Enigma machines, and initially those used by the German Navy, used a stack of three rotors with 26 electrical contacts on each end. The wiring between the input and output contacts within each rotor was scrambled. The three rotors were connected to a non-rotating reflecting drum, or reflector, which redirected electrical current back in reverse order through the rotors. The set of rotors and the reflector is termed the scrambler, denoted by S in this article. Each rotor could be set into one of 26 positions, resulting in 26 × 26 × 26 = 17,576 possible ways that the scrambler rotors could rearrange the letters of the alphabet. The initial positions of the rotors formed part of the secret key of the Enigma, and the purpose of the bombe was to recover these positions of the rotors.

At each step of the encryption, at least one of the rotors (the "fast rotor") advanced a position. At certain points the other rotors were also advanced, but when using the bombe, it was, for a small stretch of letters, assumed that only the fast rotor moved, and that the others remained stationary. We denote this by writing S1 for some given position of the scrambler, and S2 for the same position but with the fast rotor advanced one position, and similarly S3, S4 and so forth.

The principle of the bombe

In the bombe, a set of rotors with the same internal wiring as the German Enigma rotors was used – but designed to be spun by a motor, stepping through all possible rotor settings. The bombe rotors had a double set of contacts and wiring to emulate the Enigma reflection. A bombe would consist of a number of these sets of rotors wired up according to a menu prepared by codebreakers. At each position of the rotors, an electrical test would be applied.

For a large number of the settings, the test would lead to a logical contradiction, ruling out that setting. If the test did not lead to a logical contradiction, the machine would stop and ring a bell, and the candidate solution would be examined further, typically on a replica of the German Enigma machine, to see if that decryption produced German. Typically, there were many false matches before the correct match was found.

The British bombe

The bombes were built by the British Tabulating Machine Company at Letchworth. The machine was built under the direction of Harold ‘Doc’ Keen and was codenamed CANTAB. Each British bombe was about 7 feet (2.1 m) wide, 6 feet 6 inches (2.0 m) tall and 2 feet (0.61 m) deep and weighed about a ton. On the front of each bombe were 108 places where rotors could be mounted. The rotors were in three groups of 12 triplets. Each triplet, arranged vertically, corresponded to the three Enigma rotors. The bombe rotors had a double set of contacts and wiring to emulate the Enigma reflection. The input and output of each triplet of rotors went to cable connectors, allowing the bombe to be rewired according to the Turing and Welchman methodologies as applied to individual ciphertexts.

History and use

At the rear of the machine, the bombe required a large
amount of complex plugging to connect the drums
according to the settings in the menu. This is only a
partially-complete bombe rebuilt at the
Bletchley Park museum.

Using Polish cryptological techniques, British cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park were, at the beginning of World War II, able to read German army and air force Enigma messages by exploiting weaknesses in operating procedures. The British cryptologists were concerned that the Germans might at any moment change their procedures, rendering those cryptological methods obsolete.

To preempt this, British mathematician Alan Turing designed the bombe on a more general principle – the assumption of the presence of text that analysts could guess somewhere in the message, a cryptanalytical technique known as cribbing, also termed a "known-plaintext attack." (Actually, the Poles had likewise exploited "cribs," e.g. the Germans’ use of "ANX" — German for "To," followed by "X" as a spacer.)

The first bombe, which was based on Turing’s original design and so lacked a diagonal board, arrived at Bletchley Park in March 1940 and was named "Victory". The second bombe – "Agnes" – was equipped with Welchman’s diagonal board, and was installed on 8 August 1940; bombes of this type were called "Spider" bombes.

By the end of March 1941, a more advanced version of the Bombe had been developed, the "Jumbo" machine.


Background and biographical information is from the Wikipedia articles on:

The Bombe that can be found at…

Alan Turing that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


"We can haul anything."
— General Curtis LeMay, USAF

“When Berlin falls, Western Germany will be next. If we withdraw our position in Berlin, Europe is threatened… Communism will run rampant.”
— General Lucius Clay, U.S. Army

"Look, I am ready to try an airlift. I can’t guarantee it will work. I am sure that even at its best, people are going to be cold and people are going to be hungry. And if the people of Berlin won’t stand that, it will fail. And I don’t want to go into this unless I have your assurance that the people will be heavily in approval."
— General Lucius Clay, U.S. Army


The Berlin Airlift Ends

The Berlin Blockade (24 June 1948 – 11 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War and the first such crisis that resulted in casualties. During the multinational occupation of post-World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway and road access to the sectors of Berlin under their control. Their aim was to force the western powers to allow the Soviet zone to start supplying Berlin with food and fuel, thereby giving the Soviets practical control over the entire city.

In response, the Western Allies organized the Berlin Airlift to carry supplies to the people of Berlin. The over 4,000 tons per day required by Berlin during the airlift totaled, for example, over ten times the volume that the encircled German 6th Army required six years earlier at the Battle of Stalingrad. The United States Air Force, Royal Air Force, and other Commonwealth nations flew over 200,000 flights providing 13,000 tons of food daily to Berlin in an operation lasting almost a year. By the spring of 1949, the effort was clearly succeeding, and by April the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously flowed into the city by rail.

The success of the Airlift was humiliating to the Soviets, who had repeatedly claimed it could never work. When it became clear that it did work, the blockade was lifted in May. One lasting legacy of the Airlift is the three airports in the former western zones of the city, which served as the primary gateways to Berlin for another fifty years.

The Soviet zone and the Allies’ rights of access to Berlin

The only three permissible air corridors to Berlin.

In the Soviet-controlled eastern zone, the major task of the ruling communist party in Germany was to channel Soviet orders down to both the administrative apparatus and the other permitted political parties, while pretending that these were initiatives of its own.[7] The Soviet authorities forcibly unified the Communist Party of Germany and Social Democratic Party in the Socialist Unity Party ("SED"), claiming at the time that it would not have a Marxist-Leninist or Soviet orientation. The SED leaders then called for the "establishment of an anti-fascist, democratic regime, a parliamentary democratic republic" while the Soviet Military Administration suppressed all other political activities. Factories, equipment, technicians, managers and skilled personnel were removed to the Soviet Union. In a June 1945 meeting, Stalin told German communist leaders that he expected slowly to undermine the British position within their occupation zone, that the United States would withdraw within a year or two and that nothing would then stand in the way of a united Germany under communist control within the Soviet orbit. Stalin and other leaders told visiting Bulgarian and Yugoslavian delegations in early 1946 that Germany must be both Soviet and communist.

630px-C-54landingattemplehof A further factor contributing to the Blockade was that there had never been a formal agreement guaranteeing rail and road access to Berlin through the Soviet zone. At the end of the war, western leaders had relied on Soviet goodwill to provided them with a tacit right to such access. At that time, the western allies assumed that the Soviets’ refusal to grant any cargo access other than one rail line, limited to ten trains per day, was temporary, but the Soviets refused expansion to the various additional routes that were later proposed. The Soviets also granted only three air corridors for access to Berlin from Hamburg, Bückeburg and Frankfurt. In 1946 the Soviets stopped delivering agricultural goods from their zone in eastern Germany, and the American commander, General Clay, responded by stopping shipments of dismantled industries from western Germany to the Soviet Union. In response, the Soviets started a public relations campaign against American policy, and began to obstruct the administrative work of all four zones of occupation.

The Marshall Plan

Concurring with the view of the commander of the United States occupation zone, General Lucius D. Clay, the Joint Chiefs declared that the "complete revival of Germany industry, particularly coal mining" was now of "primary importance" to American security. In January 1947, Truman appointed General George Marshall as Secretary of State, scrapped JCS 1067 and supplanted it with JCS 1779, which decreed that an orderly and prosperous Europe required the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany. Administration officials met with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and others to press for an economically self-sufficient Germany, and demanded a detailed account of the industrial plants, goods and infrastructure previously removed by the Soviets.  After six weeks of negotiations, Molotov refused the demands and the talks were adjourned. Marshall was particularly discouraged after a personal meeting with Stalin, who expressed little interest in a solution to German economic problems.

Stalin opposed the Marshall Plan. He had built up a protective belt of Soviet-controlled nations on his Western border, the Eastern bloc, which included Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia…

The April Crisis and the Little Air Lift

Germans-airlift-1948 On March 25, 1948, the Soviets issued orders restricting Western military and passenger traffic between the American, British and French occupation zones and Berlin. These new measures began on April 1 along with an announcement that no cargo could leave Berlin by rail without the permission of the Soviet commander. Each train and truck was to be searched by the Soviet authorities. On April 2, General Clay ordered a halt to all military trains and required that supplies to the military garrison be transported by air, in what was dubbed the "Little Lift". The Soviets eased their restrictions on Allied military trains on 10 April 1948, but continued periodically to interrupt rail and road traffic during the next 75 days, while the United States continued supplying its military forces by using cargo aircraft. At the same time, Soviet military aircraft began to violate West Berlin airspace and harass, or what the military called “buzz”, flights in and out of West Berlin. 

On April 5, a Soviet Air Force Yakovlev Yak-3 fighter collided with a British European Airways Vickers VC.1B Viking airliner near RAF Gatow airfield, killing all aboard both aircraft. The Gatow air disaster exacerbated tensions between the Soviets and the other allied powers. Internal Soviet reports in April stated that "Our control and restrictive measures have dealt a strong blow to the prestige of the Americans and British in Germany" and that the Americans have "admitted" that the idea of an airlift would be too expensive.[30]

C-47s_at_Tempelhof_Airport_Berlin_1948On April 9, Soviet officials demanded that American military personnel maintaining communication equipment in the Eastern zone must withdraw, thus preventing the use of navigation beacons to mark air routes. On April 20, the Soviets demanded that all barges obtain clearance before entering the Soviet zone.

The decision for an airlift

Berlin_Blockade_Milk Although the ground routes had never been negotiated, the same was not true of the air. On 30 November 1945, it had been agreed in writing that there would be three twenty-mile-wide air corridors providing free access to Berlin. Additionally, unlike a force of tanks and trucks, the Soviets could not claim that cargo aircraft were some sort of military threat. In the face of unarmed aircraft refusing to turn around, the only way to enforce the blockade would have been to shoot them down. An airlift would force the Soviet Union into the position of either taking military action, in a morally reprehensible fashion, breaking their own agreements, or else to back down.

Enforcing this would require an airlift that really worked. If the supplies could not be flown in fast enough, Soviet help would eventually be needed in order to prevent starvation. Clay was told to take advice from General Curtis LeMay, commander of United States Air Forces in Europe, to see if an airlift was possible. LeMay replied "We can haul anything."

Given the feasibility assessment made by the British, an airlift appeared the best course of action. One remaining concern was the population of Berlin. Gen. Lucius Clay, commander of the allied zone, called in Ernst Reuter, the Mayor-elect of Berlin, accompanied by his aide, Willy Brandt. Clay told Reuter,

"Look, I am ready to try an airlift. I can’t guarantee it will work. I am sure that even at its best, people are going to be cold and people are going to be hungry. And if the people of Berlin won’t stand that, it will fail. And I don’t want to go into this unless I have your assurance that the people will be heavily in approval."

Reuter, although skeptical, assured Clay that Berlin would make all the necessary sacrifices and that the Berliners would support his actions.

Soviet responses

Throughout the airlift, Soviet and German communists subjected the hard-pressed West Berliners to sustained psychological warfare.[47] In radio broadcasts, they relentlessly proclaimed that all Berlin came under Soviet authority and predicted the imminent abandonment of the city by the Western occupying powers. The Soviets also harassed members of the democratically elected city-wide administration, which had to conduct its business in the city hall located in the Soviet sector.

The Blockade ends

Berlin Airlift Monument in Berlin-Tempelhof with inscription
"They gave their lives for the freedom of Berlin in service
for the Berlin Airlift 1948/49".

The continued success of the Airlift humiliated the Soviets, and the "Easter Parade" of 1949 was the last straw. On 15 April 1949 the Russian news agency TASS reported a willingness by the Soviets to lift the blockade. The next day, the US State Department stated the "way appears clear" for the blockade to end. Soon afterwards, the four powers began serious negotiations, and a settlement was reached on Western terms. On 4 May 1949, the Allies announced an agreement to end the blockade in eight days’ time.

The Soviet blockade of Berlin was lifted at one minute after midnight, on 12 May 1949. A British convoy immediately drove through to Berlin, and the first train from West Germany reached Berlin at 5:32 A.M.. Later that day, an enormous crowd celebrated the end of the blockade. General Clay, whose retirement had been announced by US President Truman on May 3, was saluted by 11,000 US soldiers and dozens of aircraft. Once home, Clay received a ticker-tape parade in New York City, was invited to address the US Congress, and was honored with a medal from President Truman.

800px-Hrs_080624-Wiesbaden1949 Nevertheless, flights continued for some time, in order to build up a comfortable surplus. By 24 July 1949, three months’ worth of supplies had been amassed, ensuring that the Airlift could be re-started with ease if needed. The Berlin Airlift officially ended on 30 September 1949, after fifteen months. In total, the USA delivered 1,783,573 tons, while 541,937 tons were delivered by the RAF, totaling 2,326,406 tons of food and supplies on 278,228 total flights to Berlin. The RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) delivered 7,968 tonnes of freight and 6,964 passengers during 2,062 sorties. The C-47s and C-54s together flew over 92 million miles in the process, nearly the same distance as the earth is from the sun. At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.

Subsequent events

Tegel was developed into West Berlin’s principal airport. In 2007, it was joined by a re-developed Berlin-Schönefeld International Airport in Brandenburg. As a result of the development of these two airports, Tempelhof was closed in October 2008, while Gatow is now home of the Museum of the German Luftwaffe and a housing development. During the 1970s and 1980s, Schönefeld had its own crossing points through the Berlin Wall and communist fortifications for western citizens.

The fact that the Soviets’ blockade contravened the agreement reached by the six-nation London Conference, along with the Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948, convinced Western leaders that they must take swift and decisive measures to strengthen the portions of Germany not occupied by the Soviets. The Blockade also helped to overcome any remaining differences between the French, British and Americans regarding West Germany, leading to a merger of all three countries’ occupation zones into "trizonia". These countries also agreed to replace their military administrations in those zones with high commissioners operating within the terms of a three-power occupation statute. The Blockade also helped to unify German politicians in support of the creation of a West German state. Some of them had previously been fearful of Soviet opposition. The blockade also increased the perception among many Europeans that the Soviets posed a danger, helping to prompt the entry into NATO of Italy, Denmark, Norway, and the Benelux countries.

The Airlift Ends… but,

The Cold War Begins…


Other Events on this Day
  • In 1777…
    Forced to flee Philadelphia, the Continental Congress meets in York, Pennsylvania.

  • In 1868…
    Louisa May Alcott publishes Little Women.

  • In 1882…
    The world’s first hydroelectric power plant to furnish incandescent lighting begins operation in Appleton, Wisconsin.

  • In 1889…
    Wyoming legislators write the first state constitution granting women suffrage.

  • In 1935…
    President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicates Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.
  • In 1949…
    The fifteen-month long Berlin Airlift comes to an end.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

The Berlin Blockade and Airlift that can be found at:

by Gerald Boerner


“After twenty years you can begin to be sure of what camera will do.”
— Brassaï

“The purpose of art is to raise people to a higher level of awareness than they would otherwise attain on their own.”
— Brassaï

“When you meet the man you see at once that he is equipped with no ordinary eyes…”
— Brassaï

"It is to seize the beauty of the streets, of the gardens, in the rain and the fog, it is to seize the night of Paris that I became photographer…"
— Brassaï

“The thing that is magnificent about photography is that it can produce images that incite emotion based on the subject matter alone."
— Brassaï

“…the thing that is magnificent about photography is that it can produce images that incite emotion based on the subject matter alone.”
— Brassaï

“The precise instant of creation is when you choose the subject. (meaning that the essential thing occurs at the moment when he, the photographer, meets the reality he wishes to capture.”
— Brassaï

“Do you know what Picasso said when he looked at my drawings in 1939? “You’re crazy, Brassai. You have a gold mine and you spend your time exploiting a salt mine!” The salt mine was – naturally – photography!”
— Brassaï

“We should try, without creasing to tear ourselves constantly by leaving our subjects and even photography itself from time to time, in order that we may come back to them with reawakened zest, with the virginal eye. That is the most precious thing we can possess.”
— Brassaï


Brassaï (1899 – 1984)

brassai-self Brassaï (pseudonym of Gyula Halász) was a Hungarian photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker who rose to fame in France. He was born Gyula Halász in the ancient Transylvanian town of Brassó. In 1902, when he was three years old, his family moved to Paris for a year (his father, a professor of literature, had a one year lectureship at the Sorbonne). He couldn’t have actually remembered much about the city, but Paris became a sort of romantic fantasy for him. He always wanted to return.

The First World War got in the way. France and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (to which Brassó belonged) were on opposite sides. The 17 year old Halász joined a cavalry unity of the Austro-Hungarian army and served until the war ended in 1918. After the war, he briefly studied art in Berlin. That education was interrupted when he returned to his native land to join a short-lived revolution to establish a socialist republic in place of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was captured and spent some time in prison.

brassai2 In 1924 Gyula Halász was finally allowed to return to Paris. It was to become his city. He would eventually become a citizen of France, but in truth all he ever wanted was to be a citizen of Paris.

In Paris, he worked as a journalist while practicing his art. His art…painting. Halász had little respect for photography; he considered it to be a craft at best, saying it was "mechanical and impersonal." Despite his occupation as a journalist, Halász kept bohemian hours. He described himself as a nocturnal creature, prowling the streets of Paris all night, going to bed at dawn. He was apparently unhappy with his attempts to paint Paris by night.

Switch to Photography…

brassai_couple on bench Gyula Halász’s job and his love of the city, whose streets he often wandered late at night, led to photography while he was tutored by the fellow Hungarian master Andre Kertesz. He later wrote that photography allowed him to seize the Paris night and the beauty of the streets and gardens, in rain and mist. Using the name of his birthplace, Gyula Halász went by the pseudonym "Brassaï," which means "from Brasso." As Brassaï, he captured the essence of the city in his photographs, publishing his first book of photographs in 1933 titled "Paris de nuit" ("Paris by Night"). His efforts met with great success, resulting in his being called "the eye of Paris" in an essay by his friend Henry Miller. In addition to photos of the seedier side of Paris, he also provided scenes from the life of the city’s high society, its intellectuals, its ballet, and the grand operas.

As well as a photographer, Brassaï was the author of seventeen books and numerous articles, including the 1948 novel Histoire de Marie, which was published with an introduction by Henry Miller. His Letters to My Parents and Conversations with Picasso, have been translated into English and published by the University of Chicago Press.

His Photographer’s Eye…

1934-brassai-foggy-paris_lBrassaï took wonderful portraits of his artist friends…Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso, Jean Genet, Alberto Giocometti, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali…but few people know those photographs. He is undoubtedly best known for his photographs of Parisian night life. He shot the people who inhabited the cafes and bars, lovers clasped in dark corners, prostitutes, opium addicts, vagabonds, hoodlums.

brassai_woman on street It’s a beautiful sentiment and it’s unquestionably true. But it’s also a tad misleading. Brassaï preferred mist and light rain because it minimized the extremes of contrast that were a major problem with night photography. The moisture in the air diffused and softened the light. In perfect bohemian style, Brassaï timed his long night exposures with cigarettes; for shorter exposures he used a cheap, fast-burning Gauloise, for longer exposures he bought more expensive, slower burning American brands. Because he was so often on the streets during the hours when all the decent Parisians were home in bed (or in someone’s bed), Brassaï often drew the attention of the gendarmerie. They were skeptical that it was possible to take photographs in the dark, so he began to carry a few of his prints in his camera bag.

brassai_couple Long exposures were useful in his exterior night photography, but Brassaï also photographed the people he met inside the cafes and bars. That required a different technique. Flash powder had been used in photography studios for some time, but the smoke and its smell made it undesirable in a public place…especially one frequented by hoodlums. Brassaï became an early disciple of the newly-invented flash bulb. It must be remembered, though, that there was no such thing as flash synchronization at that time. The existing technology didn’t allow the photographer to press the shutter and fire the flash. Instead, the photographer had to open the shutter, manually fire the flash, then close the shutter. That meant that sometimes his subjects…who, after all, were drinking and laughing and kissing and engaging in all the things one does at night in bars and cafes…moved during the exposure. This ‘flaw’ actually contributes to many of the photographs, making them seem more spontaneous.

3048992986_4100e8378c_o Brassaï does two brilliant things in his Paris by Night work. First, despite the fact that so many of his photographs involved long exposures that required his subjects to remain still, Brassaï’s work is surprisingly active. There is always something going on in his work. People are doing things. Mysterious things. Romantic things…romance in the oldest sense of the term. Second, while all photography depends on light, Brassaï also celebrated the shadow. Much of what we love about his work comes from the things we cannot see…from what we imagine lies within and beyond the mist and the shadow.

Brassaï cleverly puts the viewer IN the shadow, and from that shadow we become a part of whatever is taking place in the photograph. He welcomes us into his world, engages our interest, and invites us to share his love for his magical city. And we happily allow ourselves to be seduced.

311d_brassai_nuit_de_paris As early as 1934, Brassaï was dubbed "the eye of Paris" in an essay by his friend, American writer Henry Miller. His classic and widely acclaimed Paris de nuit (Paris by Night) series, photographed during his nighttime wanderings with the famous Paris "pedestrian" and poet Léon-Paul Fargue and other friends, is a highlight of the exhibition. Light and shadow set the mood of these evocative photographs of night workers, streets, buildings, and bridges. Backlighting contours stately silhouettes in Statue of Marshall Ney, Paris, 1932 and Saint Germain des Prés Church, Paris, 1939; streetlights create a painterly chiaroscuro in Lighting the Lamps at Dusk on the Place de la Concorde, Paris, 1932-33; and fog captures bridge-lamps in the stillness and quietude of night in Pont Neuf and Trees along Quay, Paris, 1932 and Pont Neuf, Paris, 1949.

Brassaï ardently explored the subjects of high and low culture in his photographic series Secret Paris and Society, as well as in his writing. Brassaï consciously made his series on Parisian high society, ballet, and opera in distinct counterpoint to his famous chronicle of the Parisian underworld.

“Photography in our time leaves us with a grave responsibility. While we are playing in our studios with broken flowerpots, oranges, nude studies and still lifes, one day we know that we will be brought to account: life is passing before our eyes without our ever having seen a thing.”
— Brassaï

After 1961, when he stopped taking photographs, Brassaï concentrated his considerable energy on sculpting in stone and bronze. Several tapestries were made from his designs based on his photographs of graffiti.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Brassaï that can be found at:

Also, an article on Brassaï found in: 
Peter Stepan. (2008) 50 Photographers You Should Know. New York: Prestel.

by Gerald Boerner


“…a thoroughly unpleasant dude who was, basically, a terrorist.”
— Neil Norman, Evening Standard

“Marion deserves to be remembered as one of the heroes of the War for Independence.”
— Sean Busick

“Francis Marion was a man of his times: he owned slaves, and he fought in a brutal campaign against the Cherokee Indians…Marion’s experience in the French and Indian War prepared him for more admirable service.”
— William Gilmore Simms and Hugh Rankin in the Smithsonian Magazine

Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox”

Francis Marion was a military officer who served in the American Revolutionary War. Acting with Continental Army and South Carolina militia commissions, he was a persistent adversary of the British in their occupation of South Carolina in 1780 and 1781, even after the Continental Army was driven out of the state in the Battle of Camden. Due to his irregular methods of warfare, he is considered one of the fathers of modern guerrilla warfare, and is credited in the lineage of the United States Army Rangers.


Service during the Revolution

He joined General Horatio Gates just before the Battle of Camden, but Gates had no confidence in him and sent him (mostly to get rid of him) to take command of the Williamsburg Militia in the Pee Dee area and asked him to undertake scouting missions and impede the expected flight of the British after the battle. Marion thus missed the battle, but was able to intercept and recapture 150 Maryland prisoners, plus about twenty of their British guards, who had been en route from the battle to Charleston. The freed prisoners, thinking the war already lost, refused to join Marion and deserted.

However, with his militiamen, Marion showed himself to be a singularly able leader of irregulars. Unlike the Continental troops, Marion’s Men, as they were known, served without pay, supplied their own horses, arms, and often their food. All of Marion’s supplies that were not obtained locally were captured from the British or Loyalist (“Tory”) forces.

Marion rarely committed his men to frontal warfare, but repeatedly surprised larger bodies of Loyalists or British regulars with quick surprise attacks and equally quick withdrawal from the field. After the surrender of Charleston, the British garrisoned South Carolina with help from local Tories, except for Williamsburg (the present Pee Dee), which they were never able to hold. The British made one attempt to garrison Williamsburg at Willtown, but were driven out by Marion at the Mingo Creek.

The British especially hated Marion and made repeated efforts to neutralize his force, but Marion’s intelligence gathering was excellent and that of the British was poor, due to the overwhelming Patriot loyalty of the populace in the Williamsburg area.

Francis Marion (known as the Swamp Fox) was one of the influences for the main character in the movie The Patriot. In the film, the fictional character Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) describes violence he committed in the French and Indian war.

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1780…
    Patriots under General Francis Marion surprise loyalist forces on Black Mingo Creek, South Carolina.
  • In 1892…
    At Mansfield, Pennsylvania, the first nighttime football game is played when Mansfield Teachers College faces Wyoming Seminary beneath twenty electric lights.
  • In 1915…
    In the first transcontinental demonstration of radiotelephone, speech is transmitted from New York City to Honolulu.
  • In 1957…
    Baseball’s New York Giants play their final game at the Polo Grounds, losing to the Pittsburg Pirates 9-1, before moving to San Francisco the next season.
  • In 1988…
    The space shuttle Discovery lifts off on the first shuttle flight since the 1986 Challenger disaster.




Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox” that can be found at:

by Gerald Boerner


Do not fold, spindle or mutilate
— The New York Times in 1948

“Computers are thought to be vastly different from punch card systems, and they are-technologically.”
— Charles M. Province, U.S. Army

“The 407 was the last of IBM’s electromechanical accounting machines. The next product from IBM that was capable of doing all the same things (and, of course, more) at an affordable price was a general-purpose electronic digital computer, the 1401.”
— Columbia University Computing History: IBM Tabulators and Accounting Machines

“So Hollerith timed his invention just right, although he needed more than patents and practical experience to win the day.”
— Herman Hollerith, Statistician, on what it took to develop his tabulating machine.

"What is dangerous is not technology […] The essence of technology is the danger."
— Herman Hollerith, Statistician

"… it was indeed a brave act on the part of Mr. Porter (superintendent of the Census Office in 1890) to award me a contract for the use of the machines in compiling the census. Where would he have been had I failed?"
— Herman Hollerith, Statistician

"Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst way when we regard it as something neutral."
— Herman Hollerith, Statistician

"He conceived a system that relied on stiff pasteboard cards with various patterns of punched holes. At each throw of the shuttle, a card was placed in the path of the rods. The pattern of holes in the card determined which rods could pass through and thus acted as a program for the loom. This control system allowed for flexibility and various levels of complexity in the patterns,"
— Mark Russo, in The World’s First Statistical Engineer

“As early as 1939, the Adjutant General named a team of administrative experts to work in coordination with specialists from the business world in setting up a system capable of keeping track of each individual in the Army. New accounting procedures were developed, making use of the most modern electrical devices utilizing the punch card system. During World War II, mobile units landed on the beaches of Normandy, Sicily, Italy, and the islands of the Pacific even before docking facilities had been established.”
— Col. Norman A. Donges, U.S. Army

Transition Note…

We have been looking at a variety of ‘computers’ developed during the 1940s over the past week. These devices were, in fact, computers in that they used programmed instructions to perform designated tasks. However, they were either developed for specific tasks, the calculation of artillery tables, or they were developed to and test specific configurations and/or different ways of performing a given function. They WERE NOT general purpose computing devices.

These proto-computers did, however, evolve into general purpose computers that could be programmed to perform a variety of functions. These developments were accomplished by companies that started out providing data processing equipment that used punched cards as their source of information.

This equipment was known by the general name of “Unit Record Equipment”; two of the major providers of such equipment were IBM and Remington Rand. These companies would become important in the development of general purpose, first-generation computers during the 1950s. 


Unit record equipment

Before the advent of electronic computers, data processing was performed using electromechanical devices called unit record equipment, electric accounting machines (EAM) or tabulating machines. Unit record machines were as ubiquitous in industry and government in the first half of the twentieth century as computers became in the second half. They allowed large volume, sophisticated, data-processing tasks to be accomplished long before modern (electronic) computers were invented. This data processing was accomplished by processing decks of punched cards through various unit record machines in a carefully choreographed progression. This progression, or flow, from machine to machine was often planned and documented with drawings that used standardised symbols for the various machine functions – drawings that today would be called flowcharts. The machines all had high-speed mechanical feeders to process from around one hundred cards per minute, to 2,000 cards per minute, sensing punched holes with either electrical or optical sensors. The operation of many machines was directed by the use of a removable control panel. Initially all machines were constructed using electromechanical counters and relays. Electronic components were introduced on some machines beginning in the late 1940s.

Developer: Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith was a German-American statistician who developed a mechanical tabulator based on punched cards in order to rapidly tabulate statistics from millions of pieces of data. He was the founder of the company that became IBM.

Other than his inventions, Hollerith "was said to cherish three things: his German heritage, his privacy and his cat Bismarck." He also "liked good cigars, fine wine, Guernsey cows, and money…. He disliked property taxes and hard-driving salesmen."

Hollerith developed a mechanism to make electrical connections trigger a counter to record information. A key idea was that data could be coded numerically. Hollerith saw that if numbers could be punched in specified locations on a card, in the now familiar rows and columns, then the cards could be counted or sorted mechanically and the data recorded. A description of this system, An Electric Tabulating System (1889), was submitted by Hollerith to Columbia University as his doctoral thesis, and is reprinted in Randell’s book. On January 8, 1889, Hollerith was issued U.S. Patent 395,782, claim 2 of which reads:

Hollerith_punched_cardThe herein-described method of compiling statistics, which consists in recording separate statistical items pertaining to the individual by holes or combinations of holes punched in sheets of electrically non-conducting material, and bearing a specific relation to each other and to a standard, and then counting or tallying such statistical items separately or in combination by means of mechanical counters operated by electro-magnets the circuits through which are controlled by the perforated sheets, substantially as and for the purpose set forth.


Prior uses of machine readable media had been for control (Automatons, Piano rolls, looms, …), not data. "After some initial trials with paper tape, he settled on punched cards…"

The company he founded, the Tabulating Machine Company (1896), was one of four companies that merged to form Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR), later renamed IBM. IBM manufactured and marketed a variety of unit record machines for creating, sorting, and tabulating punched cards, even after expanding into computers in the late 1950s. IBM developed punch card technology into a powerful tool for business data-processing and produced an extensive line of general-purpose unit record machines. By 1950, the IBM card and IBM unit record machines had become ubiquitous in industry and government. The warning often printed on cards that were to be individually handled, "Do not fold, spindle or mutilate," became a motto for the post-World War II era (even though many people had no idea what spindle meant). The largest supplier of unit record equipment was IBM and we will use language that largely reflects IBM practice and terminology.

Standard Operations…

Unit Record operations typically used some or all of the following devices, each of which performed one task and required an adherence to the proper sequence of operations.The basic unit of data storage was the 80-column punched card. Each punched column represented a single digit, letter or special character. Data values consisted of a field of adjacent columns.

For Example:
An employee number might occupy 5 columns; hourly pay rate, 3 columns; hours actually worked in a given week, 2 columns; department number 3 columns; project charge code 6 columns and so on.

The major devices included:

  • Keypunching…
    Cardpunch.usno Original data was usually punched into cards by workers, often women, known as key punch operators. Their work was often checked by a second operator using a verifier machine. Cards were also produced automatically by various unit record machines and later by computer output devices.
  • Sorting…
    800px-Punch_card_sorter A major activity in any unit record shop was sorting decks of punch card into the proper order as determined by information punched in the card. The same deck might be sorted differently depending on the processing step. Sorters, like the IBM 80 series Card Sorters, sorted an input deck into one of 13 output bins depending on which hole was punched in a selected column. The 13th bin was for blanks and rejects.
  • Tabulating… Reports and summary data were generated by accounting or tabulating machines, such as the IBM 407. The sorted deck was fed through the tabulating machine and each card was printed on its own line. Selected fields from each card were added to the value of one of several counters. At some signal, say a card with a special punch indicating it was a master card, a summary line would be produced containing the summed values.
  • Paper Handling Equipment…
    For many applications, the volume of paper produced by tabulators required other machines, not considered to be unit record machines, to ease paper handling. A decollator separated multi-part printed forms into separate stacks of printout and removed the carbon paper. A burster separated the perforations between pages of fan-fold output.
  • Card Punching…
    800px-Lochkartendoppler_IBM_519 Card punching machines included: Gang punch – these would produce a large number of identically punched cards—for example, for inventory tickets. Reproducing punch – these could reproduce a deck of cards in its entirety or they might just reproduce selected fields. A payroll master deck might be reproduced at the end of a pay period with the hours worked and net pay fields blank and ready for the next pay period’s data. Computer programmers who created their programs in the form of punch card decks used these to make backups. Summary punch – these were attached to tabulating machines and could punch new cards with details and totals from the tabulating machine. Mark sense reader – these would detect pencil marks on ovals printed on the card and punch the corresponding data values into the card.
  • Collating…
    A collator had two input hoppers and four or more output hoppers. These machines could merge or match card decks based on the control panel’s program. Collators performed operations comparable to a database join.
  • Interpreting…
    An interpreter would print characters equivalent to the values of columns on the card. The columns to be printed could be selected and even reordered, based on the machine’s control panel wiring. Later models could print on one of several rows on the card. Unlike keypunches, which printed values directly above each column, interpreters generally used a font that was a little wider than a column and could only print up to 60 characters per row. Typical later models include the IBM 550 Numeric Interpreter and the IBM 557 Alphabetic Interpreter.

800px-IBM402plugboard.Shrigley.wireside The operation of most unit record equipment (except for sorters) was directed by a control panel. The panels had a matrix of holes organized into groups. Wires with metal ferrules at each end were place in the holes to make connections. The output from some card column positions might be fed into a tabulating machine’s counter, for example. A shop would typically have separate control panels for each task a machine was used for.

Note: Control panel wiring is sometimes referred to as Programming. That use, in the context of data processing, to suggest a link with Computer programming, is an anachronism; the projection of a modern idea on the past.

Unit record equipment in the computer age

Early computer installations used punched cards for program entry and storage. A typical corporate or university computer lab would have a room full of key punch machines for programmer use. An IBM 407 Accounting Machine might be set up to allow newly created or edited programs to be listed (printed out on fan-fold paper) for proof reading. An IBM 519 might be provided to reproduce program decks for backup. The 519 could also punch sequential numbers in columns 73-80 of COBOL or Fortran program decks. Those languages and others did not use those columns; the use of only 72 columns is a tradition tracing back to the IBM 704 card reader. An IBM 80 series sorter would be used to put things back in order if a sequenced deck was dropped. A quicker, but less effective, protection against dropped card decks was drawing a diagonal line across the top of the deck with a marking pen.

Early mid-sized commercial computers, such as the IBM 1401 were designed to work with punch card operations and allowed more complex reporting. However, many shops soon began using magnetic tape as their primary storage medium, using cards primarily for data input.

Many organizations were loath to alter systems that were working, so production unit record installations remained in operation long after computers offered faster and more cost effective solutions. Specialized uses of punch cards, including toll collection, microform aperture cards, and punch card voting, kept unit record equipment in use into the twenty-first century. Another reason was cost or availability of equipment: in 1965 an IBM 1620 computer did not have a printer as standard equipment, so it was normal in such installations to punch printed output onto cards, using two cards per line if required and print these cards on an IBM 407 accounting machine and then throw the cards away.

Automatic Control.—This feature is of the utmost importance in the present application. When the cards corresponding to any one date have been added, the feeding must cease while the total is being printed, the counters must be cleared and then the feeding must be resumed. This sequence is performed automatically, without any attention whatsoever on the part of the operator.
— Leslie J. Comrie


Background and biographical information is from the Wikipedia articles on:

Unit Record Equipment that can be found at…

Herman Hollerith that can be found at…

Art Lovers take note… Thar be riches in them there SoCal… This web site provides a virtual tour and guide for visiting the fourteen Rembrandt’s held by SoCal museums. The Getty has about a half dozen, but where are the others? Check out this sight to find out… Happy hunting (and viewing), my friends…

Rembrandt in Southern California 
Source: www.rembrandtinsocal

Virtual exhibition of paintings by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn on view in five Southern California museums.

Southern California is home to the third-largest assemblage of Rembrandt paintings in the United States, with notable strength in works from the artist’s dynamic early career in Leiden and Amsterdam. Beginning with J. Paul Getty’s enthusiastic 1938 purchase of Portrait of Marten Looten (given to LACMA in 1953; no. 8 in the Virtual Exhibition), the paintings have been collected over the short span of 70 years and are today housed in five museums… [MORE]

Did the ‘Governator’ really save CAs State Parks? Not according to the National Office for Historic Preservation. This blog entry provides an interesting perspective on the Governor’s recent change of heart regarding the funding for the State Park System. Part time and weekends will keep parks open, YES, but not save the parks from denaturing… What do you think?

PreservationNation » Blog Archive » In California, “Fantastic” State Parks News Doesn’t Hold Up to S 


Last week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a press release concerning the fate of California’s state parks. Judging by most of the media coverage that ensued, you’d think that parks advocates had scored a major victory.

Alas, what the Governor called “fantastic news for all Californians” turns out on closer reading to be just a fantasy. The fact that so many media outlets apparently failed to read beyond the headline “Gov. Schwarzenegger Announces Plan to Keep State Parks Open” speaks volumes about the dire state of political reporting out of the State Capitol. … [MORE]

Good question: What do you think about a camera like this? This blog entry gives a good comparison between the cost of the new Hasselblad compared to a new Ford Taurus. A 60 megapixel image might be nice, but how much space will the raw file be? I’d love to have one, but I’d rather have my first and second born kids instead… What do you think?

What Cost More: Hasselblad or Ford Taurus? | Camera | Photography and the Mac 
Source: www.photographyandth

Did I miss something? When did cameras start costing more than cars? Who can afford cameras that cost over $30,000 like the new Hasselblad H4D-60 camera? If you’re using this camera on a shoot you must have one crazy day-rate.

I need to start shooting billboards ads or photographs for the sides of busses. I can’t image what the size of a raw file is with this race horse of a camera. According to the Hasselblad website, the new H4D-60 features a 60 Megapixel sensor. Talk about a nice sweet spot. I hope they toss in a few extra hard drives and flash cards when you make the purchase. … [MORE]

Have eBook readers really arrived? Not according to the Princeton University students newspaper. The cite it as ‘difficult to use’, ‘uncomfortable’ and other detracting features. This may indicate that eBook readers need to evolve a bit more before they are ready for prime time. Is this a reaction to the device itself, the mesh with a student’s study habits, or what? If you have used one for schoolwork, let me know if you agree with this article’s assessment…

Amazon Kindle deemed poor tool for the classroom 

If you thought that e-readers might become a useful tool for college students, one school newspaper is saying, think again.

Princeton University’s school newspaper has revealed that students undertaking a pilot program using Amazon’s Kindle DX have found it to be “difficult to use”, “uncomfortable” and for the cherry on top, a “poor excuse for an academic tool.”

One of the biggest gripes, and this comes directly from a professor, is that the Kindle doesn’t allow the same kind of hands-on annotating that paper materials offer. It goes without saying that college students frequently highlight and underline important things within the text to help them understand the material. … [MORE]