A Pioneer in Electronic Records

Pieces of History

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the electronic records.

29-c-1b-41_a Census Bureau Punch Card Operators, March, 1940. (National Archives Identifier 6200858)

The National Archives has long been tackling the issue of electronic records.

In the early 1960s, while looking at some Census Bureau magnetic tapes, Meyer Fishbein, then a member of the Office of Records Appraisal at the National Archives and Records Service (NARS), asked what they did with them.

The Bureau promptly replied they erased the tapes and reused them (thus saving $12.50 per tape—a hefty sum in those days). They didn’t see it as an issue because they hadn’t been saving their punch cards and this, in their minds, was the same thing.

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