D. Wilson spots earliest "chad" attestations

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Mar 11 18:33:19 UTC 2001

     About two months ago Douglas Wilson mentioned to ADS-L that he
had discovered the earliest attestations of telegraphy "chad." He has
just shared the specifics with the readers of _Comments on Etymology_
(which I edit; March 2001, pp. 2-5), and with his permission I will
now share his information with ADS-L. Here is the first of two
installments, although not every detail of the word-processor version
turns up in this e-mail, and the length of some lines may be

         (1941, 1942; RESPECTIVELY FILED 1940, 1939)

                         by Douglas G. Wilson
                         (douglas at nb.net)

         The earliest two attestations of chad thus far are 1947 (in
the Merriam-Webster files) and 1944 (noticed by Gerald Cohen).  Both
have been shared with the American Dialect Society
(ads-l at listserv.uga.edu) and will appear as part of Cohen's
forthcoming compilation of ADS-L information on chad.

         In the continuing search for earlier attestations of the term
I have been examining patents related to telegraphy and to paper
punching. Several pre-1950 attestations have turned up, and I will
now present the two which precede the previously earliest noticed
attestation of 1944.

         One patent, from 1942, was filed in 1939, and so it is
reasonable to assume that chad was already in use at that earlier
date. Similarly, the 1941 patent was filed in 1940, and chad most
likely appeared there. So the likely two earliest dates can be pushed
back to 1939 and 1940, although the absolutely certain two dates are
those of the patent approval: 1941, 1942.

                1941 PATENT WITH CHADS, CHADLESS

US Patent # 2,246,655 ('Tape Splicer') (Walter M. Bacon, Bell
Telephone Laboratories) (1941; filed 1940),

         [pp. 1-2]: 'Most of the message transmitting tape in general
use has permutation code combinations stored therein in the form of
round perforations. These perforations are formed by feeding blank
tape through a perforator which punches small round holes in the tape
to represent the permutation code signals. In making these
perforations, the perforator cuts small round pieces of paper, known
in the art as chads, out of the tape. These chads are objectionable
as they accumulate in the perforator and must be removed
periodically.  For this reason and also for other reasons, it
is desirable to store signals in tape without forming chads.

         'Chadless tape is prepared by feeding blank tape through a
device which will not punch a complete circle in the tape but,
instead, will only cut approximately three-quarters of the
circumference of a circle for each element of the permutation code
thereby leaving a movable, or hinged, lid of paper in the tape. Since
no chads are formed by this method, this type of transmitting tape is
known in the art as chadless tape and the signals formed in this type
of tape are known as chadless permutation code signals.

         'One of the many advantages of using chadless tape is that in
certain types of service, it is desirable to record a message twice
on a tape by cutting the permutation code signal combinations into
the tape and also by printing the characters on the tape. ... by
using chadless tape, the characters can be printed directly over the
permutation code combinations in the tape ....'

[p. 3] 'Under certain conditions, the owner of a station previously
equipped with a standard keyboard perforator ... might purchase a
reperforator of new design for forming chadless code signals ...."

[p. 4] 'What is claimed is: ...
4. The method of joining two strips of transmitting tapes each having
... small holes completely perforated therein with a short strip of
chadless tape having signals stored therein in the form of partial
perforations having movable lids ...."
         The above is a patent describing a splicing technique whereby
the "lids" of the partial perforations in a piece of chadless tape
can be inserted into the holes in another piece of tape in order to
join the two tapes. It is implied that chadless perforators were
commercially available by 1940. Chads are defined as small round
pieces of paper.


(to be continued in next e-mail message]

More information about the Ads-l mailing list