Friday, August 28, 2009

Time to Party with the Beyer Memorial Hospital "IBM Department"!

It's Friday night. That means time for fun. So here we go--how about a cartoon, drawn by an engineer, depicting, uh, er, I think it's depicting the punch-card system Beyer. How patient information is processed? Or employee check-in? I don't rightly know. Perhaps those wiser then Dusty D can help figger out what in the Sam Hill this is all about and why it's supposedly funny! (Click for larger image).

I do know this: the cartoon figure in the 9:30 panel, pulling his hair, and in the last 2 panels, seen messing around with wires in the punch-card (?) machine, is John Jenkins, the superintendent of Beyer. You can see him here demonstrating one of Beyer's IBM machines to two Pennsylvania Hospital delegates. Beyer's IBM system was, the caption says, "recognized as one of the most modern in the country, which [the Penn Hospital guys] want to use as a model for the Pennsylvania Hospital."


Dusty D said...

Now, this is interesting, from the Wikipedia entry for "punched card":

"[Punch card inventor Herman] Hollerith was originally inspired by railroad tickets that let the conductor encode a rough description of the passenger:

"I was traveling in the West and I had a ticket with what I think was called a punch phonograph. . . the conductor . . . punched out a description of the individual, as light hair, dark eyes, large nose, etc. So you see, I only made a punch photograph of each person."[8]

His punch cards were used in the 1890 Census! He founded the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896 which with three other companies to form the Computer Tabulating Recording System, which became IBM.

Dusty D said...

So here's the breakdown:

8:30 a.m. "Punchy Operators" seem to be entering some kind of data--patient admissions data?

8:30 a.m.: a [patient?] census is produces on a long folded paper. This and apparently some other papers are brought to the various hospital departments.

9:30: Superintendent Jenkins sees the "charge cards" are wrong. Dunno what a "charge card" is.

10:00 Apparently this is the fault of the tabulating department...

11 a.m.: Other employees come to tabulating department--are those paper printouts on the floor? What's that machine in there?

Noon: IBM's (?) Mr. Bowles arrives, apparently to make an inspection although things are going wrong?

1 p.m. Happy Durham is operating a different machine. The rack on top looks like a card-sorted--did this machine so some operation to punch cards?

2 p.m. Tabulating visits file room carrying what appear to be big single lists of data

2:30 p.m. Tabulating leaves file room, carrying different and now multiple papers; what happened in the file room?

3 p.m. Files are purged...does this mean the original punch cards were destroyed since the data has not been collected elsewhere (by tabulating dept at 2:30?)

At 4 p.m., the hospital supervisor is seen "fixing" a machine. There is a side view of the "game of chance" machine from 1 pm.

5 p.m. a large machine is now covered for the night as the superintendent continues to mess with...the "motherboard" of the "game of chance machine"?

That's about as far as I can parse it.
3 p.m. Files are "purged"?

Thomas said...

This is probably full of all kinds of inside jokes, but I think I can shed some light on a few things.

pre-8:30 am: punchy operators are probably entering data like "Patient X was in a room today, charge him for that. Patient Y was given two aspirin, charge her for that", etc.

9:30 am: the charge cards are probably the things above, "charge so-and-so for a room, charge so-and-so for two aspirin". See for exciting reading.

11:00 am: It's probably just supposed to be some random machine. I'm guessing the stuff strewn about the floor are plug wires, wires which would be ran between different plugs on the machines to control how they operated.

12:00 noon: I'd guess Mr. Bowles is an IBM engineer. In those days you leased machines from IBM, and you probably paid to have an IBM engineer around. They're probably making a pointed comment that the IBM guy shows up at noon asking when lunch is.

1:00 pm: the machine looks like a sorter, the middle part really looks like

2:30 pm: I'm guessing tabulating went on a raid of the file room, grabbing massive amounts of paper files the nurses, doctors and staff fill out to use them in some data processing.

3:00 pm: Files are purged probably means something like "after Patient Z has been charged and paid for it, you probably don't care that three months ago he had Salisbury steak and mushy peas for lunch, and don't really see any reason to keep the piece of paper around that says as such."

5:00 pm: we're a couple of decades away from motherboards, this is probably a plugboard:

My (very!) slightly educated guesses. I'd love to know where this and the following entry came from.

Dusty D said...

Wow! What a great comment! I might make a whole separate entry on it later.

This entry and the following one came from some 1950s editions of the "Beyer Banner," Beyer Memorial Hospital's onetime in-house newspaper (for more on that, you can see this story.