"chad" apparently did not fly about

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Jan 25 10:00:11 UTC 2001

>    Douglas Wilson's e-mail today (Jan. 24) speculates that the chad
>might have flown all over and may therefore be likened to lice
>("chats").  Hence (so the theory) "chad" may derive from this "chats"
>or better yet from "chads" (same meaning), assuming that this latter
>form actually existed.

Actually the theory is more or less due to Evan Morris's correspondent
(message in Nov. 2000).

>... from 1952 ... the chad did not fly around all over but was neatly
>caught in a

I have limited experience with paper tape punching, only from about 1967. I
did not find any problem with loose material either. But 1930's equipment
may have been much different from 1952 in this respect. I know only what I
see in my patent skimming, and of course it may be biased: for example the
proud inventor who is patenting a new chad-catcher is likely to maximize
the problem which his invention addresses.

Punched tape was used at least since 1860. Patents for early machines
mostly ignored the paper residue, and the diagrams for some clearly show a
lack of any provision for collection of chads: apparently they just fell on
the floor; in practice I suppose a bucket or something was placed under the
punch. I've skimmed thousands of pages on the Web, and I can't remember
clearly a lot of what I saw. But -- just as one example, and not the most
germane -- US Patent # 3,602,080 ("Chad Removal Means") (1977), dealing not
with telegraphy tape but with rotary printers, states:

"The chad becomes a nuisance because they tend to fly about in the room
space, attach themselves to the clothes of the operator, and sometimes
accumulate on the moving parts of the machine in sufficient quantities to
block the machine."

[Note the confusion about the countability of the word "chad"!]

[Searching old (pre-1976) patents through the USPTO site on the Web is like
using a microfilm reader. You can't search text; you only get images of the
documents -- some of them only marginally legible. You can't even search by
title or inventor, only by patent # and by a "classification number" which
may or may not have relevance to the subject of interest. For example, the
above-mentioned patent is indexed under three of the hundreds of
subcategories of "cutting": if you search the whole "cutting" category, you
get tens of thousands of patent numbers (without titles); if you search
under "punching" or "waste removal" or anything else separate from
"cutting", or if you enter the wrong subcategory of "cutting", you don't
find it.]

 From advice given on the Web (1999) for someone moving a "Model 19"
teletype machine (machine maybe from circa 1945?):

"That is the Chad Box. Be sure it is empty. If it is not, you may become
very unpopular very fast when you start moving the table, particularly if
you do use a hand truck. Chads, though made out of paper, are magnetic.
They stick to everything. Vacuum cleaners ignore them. They make you look
like you need Industrial Strength Selsun-Blue if you get them on your

More later.

-- Doug Wilson

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