Computer paper tape dates back to 1857, when Sir Charles Wheatstone
coded information on tape -- in Morse code format according to the
book "Bebop BYTES Back":
It was widely-used in the 1960s and 1970s with Teletype terminals,
factory numerical controls and offset typesetting equipment. It
provided a main method of input for early personal computers, such as
the Heathkit H-8 (introduced in 1977) but was effectively replaced by
the floppy diskette in 1980. What you're seeking is called 1",
6-level paper tape.
The real problem is finding you a likely source for paper tape -- and
it won't be easy. Widespread use of IBM punch cards by government
agencies make those easier to find!
Garage sales could be a good idea, but how to find "antique" computer
items that are now 20+ years old? Why the nation's garage sale --
www.ebay.com! There are some DEC paper-tape programs for sale on eBay
in the computer section but the lowest-priced at $40 seems extreme for
a school project.
A Grass Valley, CA refurbisher of numerical controls equipment sells
both Facit paper tape punches and the rolls of tape themselves, with
UNoiled paper tape being $5.25 per roll. I'd just ask Western
Numerical Controls for a sample; if they have any that's used
(punched); and explain what the project is:
But the unpunched stuff seems so tame. Did you know that the
Smithsonian has a copy of BASIC 1.1, a version of the program that was
unreleased by the company then called Micro Soft, in paper tape form?
A later version was released in 1975 for the Altair on paper tape.
Here are some types of equipment that used paper tape. You may
locally be able to find a company or person who has some PUNCHED tape
segments for you:
1. Frieden typesetters: Frieden Flexowriter typesetting equipment was
used widely up until at least 1980 by mailers, print shops and
2. Teletype terminals: Teletype Model 33 and 35 terminals were the
pre-cursors to the CRT terminals that began wide use in the late
1970s. They were used by corporations with mainframe or minicomputer
installation and also by communications companies sending telex
messages. Columbia University's computing page shows several of the
3. Kit computers of 1st generation PCs (Heathkit H-10, Southwest
Technical Products, Altair). The SWTPC6800 used a unit made by Oliver
4. Digital Equipment (DEC) PDP-8 minicomputers: from the same era of
the mid-1970s, they were widely used by businesses and universities
(particularly in the engineering and scientific departments). They
used a paper-tape drive.
5. Factory computer numerical control (CNC) equipment used paper tape
well into the 1980s, as it was more reliable than magnetic tape drives
which would often have data lost due to electrical noise from factory
So there are some additional places to look. A good suggestion for
the weekend would be to check local newspapers to see if there's an
antique computer fair -- or even someone offering old computer
equipment for sale in the newspaper.
This isn't an easy task. I think your daughter deserves extra credit
for finding some punched paper tape!
And extra credit to mom for using Google Answers!
Google search strategy:
computer + "paper tape"
"Teletype Model 33" and other model-specific references