Fw: chad--background info from C. Jensen

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Sat Jan 6 17:57:08 UTC 2001

chad--background info from C. JensenMore on "chip(s)", following up on G Cohen's quote of Jensen below.  The inventor who testified in the Bush v. Gore Florida trial about voting machines (I forget his name) made a point of saying that he called the waste matter "chips", not "chads".  He was in the industry, and clearly very familiar with punch cards and their use.  His invention of those voting machines dates back to the 1970s at least -- I came across one of his patents in searching the US patent site.

This and what Jensen says below suggests that in the IBM-centered punch-card community, "chips" was the word for the waste from the cards.

Given the possible origin of "chad" from a Scottish dialect word, and the fact that no one (despite much searching) has found an earlier US cite of "chad" than 1947, I have thought that the origin might be from the UK, transferred to US speakers during WWII, perhaps via contacts in the military or intelligence communities, where teletype and paper tapes were in regular use.  I did some searching of patents on the UK govt site (in the UK, patents are handled by a sub-department of the Dept of Trade and Industry), but have found nothing earlier yet.  That site, btw, is pretty good -- not as easy to use as the USPTO, but it does search patents worldwide, including European, Japanese, and US patents, and searchable by language.

I expect someone will find "the missing chad" at some point.

Frank Abate

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Gerald Cohen 
Sent: Saturday, January 06, 2001 12:30 PM
Subject: chad--background info from C. Jensen

     Several days ago I posted a message from Mr. Chris Jensen about his hearing the term "chad" in 1952 when training in the US Army's teletype school. On Jan. 4 I received another message from him with some interesting background information and will now present excerpts (beneath my signature).

---Gerald Cohen

  (...) I later worked for IBM, selling punch-card processing systems. The current press attributes the word to the punch-card culture that resides in ballots and voting machines. Interestingly, at no time in my 24-year IBM career did I hear anyone use the word "chad." We always used 'chip' and 'chips.' The piece of any machine that collected the chips was called the "chip box." That was both common usage and the name of the box in manuals, parts lists, etc.

  Rectangular punch-card chips collected in chip boxes until the box was manually dumped. Users were cautioned to be careful with chips because they could injure an eye if lodged there. That admonishment was directed to those who would playfully dump the contents of the chip box on another person as though it were confetti. Chips with their pointed corners were potentially hazardous, while I've never heard the same of confetti.

  My vocational path diverged from that of the people in IBM who sold and support voting machine systems and I didn't have reason or opportunity to keep up with that segment of the business. Possibly they got to know the word 'chad' as defining chips from ballots. If so, I don't know why they adopted that usage. 

  In the Army we carefully disposed of the chad from perforators so as to not leave anything behind a moving field unit that could identify that unit's purpose or equipment. Chadless perforators didn't leave chad. In either case, we had to manage the disposition of the perforated tape in equal fashion. (...)

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