Made in United Kingdom, Europe, 1955.

Invented by Herman Hollerith, the tabulating machine was developed to help process data for the 1890 U.S. Census. The 1880 census had taken seven years to tabulate, and by the time the figures were available, they were clearly obsolete. Due to rapid growth of the U.S. population from 1880 to 1890, primarily because of immigration, it was estimated that the 1890 census would take approximately thirteen years to complete. Clearly, a faster way had to be found. The tabulating machine, inspired in p...


Tabulator, heads (2), plastic cover and power supply cord, metal / Bakelite / plastic / electronic components, made by the British Tabulating Machine Company Ltd, United Kingdom, probably 1955

This machine is the printing mechanism of a tabulator system and was connected to a sorter/reproducer working from punch cards. When programmed it could print reports. It is a bicoloured blue/grey machine with paper tray, keyboard and control buttons and was electrically powered.


1670 mm
770 mm
660 mm


The tabulator was made by the British Tabulating Machine Company in about 1955.

The British Tabulating Machine Company (BTM) was formed in 1902 (initially known as The Tabulator Limited) after the rights to sell the Hollerith punch card machines in the UK were obtained. The company had to pay 25% of revenue to the American company until 1948 when the contract was terminated. Spurred on by the difficulties in paying the 25% royalties, and by the desire to obtain government contracts that were going to US based companies, BTM developed its own Rolling-Total Tabulator in 1937. The company also contributed to developing machines to break the german Enigma cipher machine during WWII.

In 1959 BTM merged with rival company Powers-Samas to become International Computers and Tabulators Limited (ICT). ICT later became part of ICL (International Computers Limited).

This particular object, manufactured in 1955, is a later and improved version of BTM's Rolling-Total Tabulator developed initially in 1937.

The design and concepts inherent in this type of machine had been developed around 1890 by Herman Hollerith for accounting/census applications. His design came to recognition in a competition. This model is the last manufactured of its type. It was used for sorting and recording account information until the late 1970s. Systems of this type remained in production up until the late 1960s.


Gift of Jim Rowston, 2007
3 October, 2007

Cite this Object

Tabulator 2014, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 17 November 2017, <>
{{cite web |url= |title=Tabulator |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=17 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
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