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Data Storage Hardware Hacking IBM Robotics Build

Resurrect Your Old Code With a DIY Punch Card Reader 100

Posted by timothy
from the convert-your-existing-recipe-cards dept.
First time accepted submitter mchnz writes "Need to read in some old punch cards? Have a hankering to return to yesteryear? I've combined an Arduino, the CHDK enhanced firmware for Canon cameras, and the Python Image Library to build a reader for standard IBM 80 column punch cards. You can see it in action in "Punch Card Reader — The Movie" or read more about it." This is an inspiring, intimidating project.
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Resurrect Your Old Code With a DIY Punch Card Reader

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  • I'm lazy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @02:01PM (#40780583)

    I'm too lazy for all that lego building. If I needed to read punch cards I'd just find a scanner that would accept media that narrow and feed em through the ADF, feed that PDF into a script to pop apart the pages and then process the images.

  • That's cheating! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gallondr00nk (868673) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @02:11PM (#40780773)
    I was expecting something that mimicked the original way these cards were read. Anyone can take a photo of a punchcard :)
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @02:14PM (#40780835) Homepage

    OK, this is really cool ... but how many people still have decks of punch cards?

    The closest I've been to them is a box we had of them we used for notes.

    Though, given the level of technology pack-rats we likely have on Slashdot, I expect several people to say they still have some cool program or another tied up neatly waiting for just such a thing. :-P

  • by rasper99 (247555) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @02:24PM (#40781017)

    I have punch cards on my desk at work so I can remember back to a time when computers and software worked reliably. Why read the holes if the keypunch machine printed the characters above the columns?

    I also have the heads and voice coil from a 185MB CDC removable disk drive (approx 15" long) in case I have to smack some young whippersnapper upside the head!

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @02:31PM (#40781137) Homepage

    Because, like anything, if you were there for it, you might have some nostalgia for it. It's something you did that most people can't even imagine having to do -- like programming in assembly, or walking to school (uphill, both ways).

    I had a prof in university who used to wistfully tell me about toggling in the boot sequence with the buttons on the front of the machine. Hell, he once gave me the manual for the Winchester ST-506 hard-drive controller, and had me write the metal-up code to handle the HD -- about as bare metal as you can get as you shoved a byte into a register and wait for an interrupt to happen to respond to it. I still think that was kind of cool, but it's not something everybody wants to do. But, I gotta say, writing my own cat, ls, rm, mv etc in DOS going straight into the FAT filesystem, and knowing there wasn't a single line of code between me and the hardware I didn't write was fun and rewarding.

    I bet most people using computers never had to deal with IRQ assignments for hardware to make them all work together. It was a pain in the ass, but we all fought through it.

    And, finally, like so many of these technology projects "because I can" is sometimes all the reasoning you need. People do all sorts of stuff in their spare time, and one person's "shiny fun toy" is another person's "WTF would you do that for?".

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @03:06PM (#40781745) Homepage

    I service a CNC machine at a machine shop that STILL uses paper tape. I am the only guy that will touch the old hardware so I get paid $150 an hour to tinker with the stuff. Hell they cant find a IT company that can handle DOS so I also pick up the other old machines.

    I love it, 1 long afternoon/evening there and I go home with $1000 in my pocket.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @04:17PM (#40783053)

    My former employers signed a contract with the US EPA that included a promise to archive the data from the project. After a while they realized that the idiots who wrote the contract hadn't specified a retention period. So we called the EPA, who laughed and said "keep them forever, suckers!"

    So I took the IBM punch cards that held the information and triple wrapped them in plastic and aluminum foil under an inert atmosphere, then took the resulting bricks and stacked them in a dank basement, with signs that explained this data had to be archived forever. They are still there to this day. The contract did not say the data had to be accessible, just that it had to be archived.

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