Chad enuffa dis? (continued)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Nov 30 19:27:04 UTC 2000

I did a little reading. It turns out I was woefully ignorant of the history
of punched tape and cards.

Since the earliest and most frequent usages of "chad" seem to refer to
telegraphy tape, I reviewed the history of punched tape in telegraphy.
Apparently something called Wheatstone tape, patented in 1846 (UK), looking
very similar to punched tape used ca. 1960, became widespread around
1870-1890. So plenty of chad(s) would have been present in large telegraph
offices by ca. 1900.

The earliest similar technology commonly cited is the Jacquard loom, which
used punched cards for control early in the 19th century. I doubt there
would have been much volume of chad(s) associated with this or with other
early devices such as Babbage engines. But the US census used punched cards
around 1900 (I forget the exact date), no doubt leading to a localized
surfeit of chad.

Postage stamps have been perforated by hole punch since about 1854, and the
major early technical problem involved failure of the punch due to impacted
paper (i.e., chad[s]). I find mention of "paper" and "paper discs" only, in
a short browse at the library. One (recent) book (which I couldn't find)
was quoted as mentioning the huge volume of chad (using this word) produced
in manufacture of US stamps. Surely there would have been a large volume by
ca. 1900.

I doubt our "chad" has been in (significant) use since ca. 1900 (in this
case probably it would have made it into large dictionaries earlier). But
the 1920's or 1930's might be plausible?

-- Doug Wilson

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