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Byte Sized

Byte Sized Episode 3: The First Ever Sorting Algorithm

vaidehijoshi profile image Vaidehi Joshi ・1 min read

Today's episode of Byte Sized is about Herman Hollerith, IBM, and the creation of the Hollerith Machine and Radix Sort.

For more about Radix Sort, check out this post:

Follow Byte Sized for an adventure through computer history, a few minutes at a time. More great episodes to come.

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Vaidehi Joshi


Writing words, writing code. Sometimes doing both at once. Señiorita engineer at Forem.

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An improvement from ten years to three months is pretty massive, ~ 98% reduction in time.

Can you imagine working on a census for ten years? 🤯


Well actually it was totally useless. At that time there was a huge population growth, especially due to immigration. Even three months was too much to keep up, but ten years? I would say wasted work ... (and what a horrible job).


Interesting! Is that 10 year time (the previous sorting time) the reason that the census was only done every 10 years? (because it took that long just to sort the data?) I agree with Ben: 🤯


Hm, I think the census is every 10 years because of Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution. I didn't even know that it was right in the Constitution until today...TIL!

I do think it's cool that Hollerith made it much easier to accomplish that task, though. I can only imagine the horror of trying to do the census with today's population if it hadn't been automated 😳


Huh, TIL about the census being in the Constitution too :) thanks!