At the start of the 20th century, the United States Census Bureau was in a bit of a pickle. The electric tabulating machines that had saved the census in 1890 worked beautifully — but they were expensive. And there was only one source: Herman Hollerith (an inventor who helped lay the foundation for IBM). So the census decided to go into business for itself. They started up their own machine shop to, essentially, copy Hollerith’s machines. This decision set off a cascade of events that, by the 1950s, set the stage for one of the most important moments in tech history — the birth of an entirely new kind of machine.