Mechanical Brains Aid in Tabulations
Records Office Uses Robot Wizards Instead of Clerks
University Hall beasts a set of a mechanical wizards that can do nearly everything but shape College policy. Since December, 1943, when acceleration began and clerical work had to be stepped up, five International Business Machines have been adding, subtracting, separating, sorting, tabulating, and reproducing Harvard records, with two operators doing the work of 30 pre-war secretaries.
These machines get their greatest play during the week between terms when class standings, grades, and course enrollments must be compiled. "Before the war," remarked Henry S. Dyer, Assistant Dean, "there was four months for a crew of extras, working with hand-methods, to perform the various functions incident to cleaning up the records of one year and preparing the records of the next. Now the same job, with new complications introduced by the advent of V-12 students, is completed in the one week between terms." The day before grades come out, Harvard's 10,000 course cards pass through the sorter in three hours.
Need for mechanical aid in the Records Office was first apparent during the winter of 1942-1943. When the flow of students into the armed forces began and University enrollment became an unstable quantity. That was when Dyer began to experiment with borrowed machines. By the end of 1943, Harvard was fully mechanized.
Navy records have been greatly facilitated the constant screenings and grade reports of the V-12 programs here require fast action, and the machines are able to give it. Civilian uses range from grading placement tests to figuring out the ratio of students to the various preparatory schools. In addition, all the telltale information about each man's College career is recorded by code punches on two basic cards.
And it's all done with machinery untouched by human hands!