Hole punch history: How the small device changed the world in one thadump

Over a century after its invention, the paper hole punch has become a staple of offices and schools worldwide, offering a simple organizational tool to keep stray documents in check.

From its humble beginnings 131 years ago, the tool became a necessary part of everyday life for most — thought its future as a necessary tool in the supply room is, perhaps, now in question with the increasingly undeniable dominance of the digital world in modern society.

To celebrate the tool’s 131st anniversary — an anniversary that it is disputed — Google has dreamed up a Doodle, alongside a bizarrely romantic (by some standards) description of the mundane motions office workers methodically repeat whilst hoping to avoid paper cuts. That ode to the paper punch can be read right here, if you’re curious.

The first recorded patents for a paper hole puncher was published in 1885, when a man named Benjamin Smith invented spring-loaded hole puncher that had a receptacle to collect those little clips — Smith called it the “conductor’s punch”. A later paper punch was patented in 1893 by Charles Brooks, and that one was referred to as a ticket punch.

Google gives the honours of having invented the paper punch to the Germans, however. Friedrich Soennecken made his patent for a paper punch device in November 1886.

That the American patents were referred to as “conductor’s punch” and “ticket punch” may be no coincidence. Between 1850 and 1900, rails became increasingly popular as a means for passenger and commercial travel, and re-imagining the possibilities of the future of the world.

Since then, of course, paper punches have become essential for school children with three-ring binders who need to keep track of their work, and even college students. But, as tablets and smartphones make the existence of paper itself less and less relevant, it remains to be seen what the future may hold for the paper punch.

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