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Definition: tabulator

A machine that added up numerical data in punch cards. Invented by Herman Hollerith in the late 1880s, his tabulator displayed the totals on dials. Subsequent models were able to perform additional arithmetic operations as well as print the results. The Hollerith tabulator evolved into punch card accounting machines that were used by the thousands for decades (see accounting machine). See Hollerith machine and punch card.

First Tabulator - 1890 U.S. Census
After placing the punch card in the reader and pulling the handle down, the dials incremented, and the card was dropped into the sorting box that opened. (Image courtesy of The Computer History Museum, www.computerhistory.org)

A Tabulator in the 1960s
Tabulating machines such as the IBM 407 (left) were used to print millions of reports, invoices and checks. Hollerith's company evolved into IBM, and IBM was always the leading tabulating equipment vendor. (Image courtesy of IBM.)