Keypunch Operator

It's graduation season and that got me thinking back thirty-three (!) years to my own high school graduation.

It was May 25, 1976 and it was another lifetime. My first "real" job after graduation was at a mining company working as a keypunch operator. A keypunch operator? Yes, a keypunch operator. They're an extinct breed here in the twenty-first century, but we were a vital part of business back then.

Our work would come in to us in batches. A batch could either be a set of time cards bundled together in an elastic band, or a set of invoices paper clipped together. The time cards were always my favorite thing to do. They would be loaded into the keypunch machine and one by one they would feed into a window directly in front of where I sat. Employees would have written the number of hours they worked each day and I would key those numbers so that they would punch little holes in the appropriate place on the card.

When one of us finished keying a batch, the punched cards would be put back into our in-basket to be verified at a later time. Verifying was simply keying the same thing over again to identify any mis-punched holes which would require that a new card be created.

Keypunching was the kind of work that allowed one to shift their brain into auto-pilot. When one got good enough at keying there was little thought required because the fingers would automatically move to they keys based on the numbers that the eyes saw. There was a lot of deep thought that one could do during keypunching.

My best friend today was a keypunch operator in her past life as well. We both have said that keypunching was one of the best jobs we ever had.

Fast forward to 2009 and the time card employees at the company where I work key their own time into the computer. Keypunch operators have gone the way of the Edsel and the do-do bird.

I can't help but wonder about some of the high tech jobs that young people are taking today. Which ones will go the way of the keypunch operator in the years to come?


Angie Ledbetter said...

Keypunching sounds fun! I'm a year shy of being as ancient as you, and I worked during high school at a realor's office. It was a lot of hard work, but I did learn to draw house plans on graph paper. :) My three teens are employed as a personal care attendant, night shift at corner CVS, and grocery clerk at locally owned store.

Karen Walker said...

Hi Linda,
I'm more ancient than both you and Angie. I graduated HS in 1966 and my first job was as a secretary, using an IBM Selectric typewriter,which also went the same way as the Edsel and the do-do bird. I can't believe we used to type things with carbon paper and have to re-type whenever there were major changes. Thank goodness for word processing and computers.
Karen Walker

Melissa Marsh said...

I think that type of job probably would have drove me nuts. My first job was as a library assistant. I worked at my small city library and shelved books, helped with the summer reading program, etc. This was all before we started to use computers to check books out. We were just getting all the books prepped for use in that type of electronic system when I went to college.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

You brought back lots of memories of my days of working part time at college doing keypunch. And I used the Selectric typewriter and my father drove an Edsel. What stories we have!

JD said...

This brought back memories for me, my first office job... My best friend at work was the key punch operator, and I typed all of the company's management checks with a manual typewriter. The company I worked for moved out of our town many years ago, and your post made me go on Google to see what happened to the company. I was surprised to learn that it merged with another big company, and it is now in 6 different countries.

Terri Tiffany said...

It's interesting to read how many people did that job! I never knew anyone who did.
My first job was as a sewing machine operator at a pajama factory. I last three days! UGH Hated it!

Carmen said...

I took a course for keypunch operating way back when I was a young adult. I never actually went anywhere with it and ended up working in a bank instead. I feel like I'm getting to know you better now than when you lived here! Isn't it funny the things you find out? Kind of cool!

Beverlydru said...

I graduated in 1975 and worked in the high school office on the switchboard! As in Lily Tomlin's one ringy dingy type. We've come a long way!