More from D. Wilson's "chad" article

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Mar 11 23:43:54 UTC 2001

  Here is installment #2 of Douglas Wilson's article on "chad" in
_Comments on Etymology_ (March 2001, pp.2-5); article title: Earliest
Attestations of Telegraphy "chad" Thus Far: Two Patents (1941, 1942;
Respectively Filed 1940, 1939).
---Gerald Cohen

                1942 PATENT WITH CHADS

US Patent # 2,273,909 ('Printing Telegraph Apparatus') (Carl W. Swan,
Teletype Corporation) (1942; filed 1939):

[p. 1] 'Prior devices of the type according to the current invention
have been arranged to cut out the perforations completely at a single
movement, thereby producing chads or pieces of waste material which
often present difficult problems of disposal. To avoid the necessity
of disposing of this waste material by preventing its formation, the
present invention provides a perforating arrangement whereby the
perforations are not completely cut out, but the chads are permitted
to remain attached to the perforated material (for example, tape),
the preferred arrangement being such that the punches are utilized to
so pierce the material as to leave an uncut portion which serves as a
hinge, thus resulting in a hinged lid ....'

[p. 7] 'What is claimed is: ...
3. A telegraphic record comprising a tape composed of areas of
yielding nature consisting of partially severed lids ... struck from
said tape, said lids being integrally attached thereto to preserve
the contiguity [D. Wilson: sic; contiguity or continuity?] of said
strip, ....'

                     A FEW COMMENTS

1.  A 1943 patent I noticed is at least a partial repeat of the 1942
patent presented above.  US Patent # 2,308,554 ('Printing Telegraph
Apparatus') (Carl W. Swan, Teletype Corporation) (1943; filed 1940)
contains the  same text as that on p. 1 in the above patent #

2. The two patents mentioned just above (arising from a single 1939
application) apparently describe the original 'chadless' perforation
process and encoding technique. The word 'chadless' does not appear
in these documents, but chads are mentioned as waste fragments which
are avoided by the process. Nobody named Chadless is involved,
needless to say.

3. I have found a few more pre-1950 attestations of chad in the
patents, but since they do not pre-date 1944 I will present them
elsewhere (Comments on Etymology, April 2001 issue). Meanwhile, in
all the early documents I examined, chad appears to be a countable
noun, with the regular plural chads. I did not find any instance of
chad as an uncountable or mass noun. It is implied that chad was a
conventional term in the telegraphy field by 1939,  most commonly
pluralized, apparently in the sense of 'a disc or fragment of waste
paper from a perforated tape.' The expression chad tape was not
found; apparently this expression occurred later, by contrast with
chadless tape.

4. These old patents are not digitized, and they are not classified
very conveniently, so I used a 'brute-force' technique in searching
them on the Web. I may very well have missed numerous occurrences of
chad. However, I noted many cases in which punched-out paper
fragments were mentioned in patents from before 1950--in connection
with telegraphy tape, Hollerith (tabulator) cards, Jacquard looms,
automatic musical instruments, etc.--and they were referred to as
'punchings,' 'chips,' 'wads,' 'slugs,' 'discs,' 'pieces,'
'clippings'--generally not 'chads.' Furthermore, in my review of
patents prior to 1950, the word 'chad' was not encountered outside
the telegraphy field.

5. The ultimate etymology of chad is not yet clarified, at least not
with certainty. But the present study both provides antedates of the
term and illustrates that an examination of patents is a fruitful
avenue to pursue.

6. Oslin 1992 references several hundred pages of mimeographed
material from Western Union.  This may be included in the Western
Union Telegraph Company Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

Now, if somebody is REALLY ambitious ....

                      SELECTED REFERENCES

Cohen, Gerald (forthcoming). A compilation of material on chad, with
due credit given throughout. Comments on Etymology, April 2001, vol.
30, no. 7; the entire issue will be devoted to chad and will present
a full list of references.

Oslin, George P. 1992. The Story of Telecommunications.  Mercer
University Press. (p. 316).

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