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British Industrial History

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Powers-Samas Accounting Machines

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of Powers-Samas House, Holborn Bars, London, EC1. Telephone: Holborn 8711, and Croydon (factory from 1932), makers of punched card machines.

Powers-Samas Accounting Machines Ltd was a British company which sold punched card equipment. The company was in competition with the British Tabulating Machine Co (BTM).

1911 The Powers Accounting Machine Company was formed by James Powers in New York. Powers had worked for the American Bureau of Census maintaining Hollerith’s tabulating machinery. He made several improvements to Hollerith’s original design, including incorporation of an automatic printing mechanism (or tabulator), and a mechanical hole-sensing mechanism.

A lawsuit was brought against Powers on ground of infringement of copyright by a German company acting for the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (later to become IBM). Although the German company won, they were obliged to grant Powers-Germany a licence to use Hollerith’s patents on a royalty basis. Powers continued to develop the machines, adding slide punching machines, removable and easily programmable tabulator boxes, etc. which led to increased competition within the industry.

1915 The Accounting and Tabulating Machine Company of Great Britain ("Acc and Tab") was incorporated as a private company in England. Acc and Tab established a relationship with Powers and eventually became Powers (UK).

Despite Powers' infringement of his copyright, Hollerith decided to form a licencing relationship with Acc and Tab rather than prevent manufacture of his design of tabulator[1].

1918 (some say 1915) Impressed by the success of mechanization of its own offices, the Prudential Assurance Co acquired the manufacturing and selling rights to the Powers tabulator (presumably in Britain and its colonies), initially with the aim of sub-contracting the manufacturing[2]

1920 A contract was awarded to Acc and Tab to develop machines for the 1921 English census

1921 The US Census chose Powers machines rather than BTM's

1922 Societe Anonyme des Machines A. Statistiques (S.A.M.A.S.) was incorporated in France, to handle distribution of Powers' machines in France and the French Colonies[3].

During the 1920s both Acc and Tab and BTM began making their machines in Britain, rather than importing them from USA[4]

1927 The US parent Powers company was taken over in the formation of Remington Rand, becoming known as the "Tabulating Machine Division" of Remington; the company later became Unisys.

1929 Agreement with Remington Rand cross-licencing technology to each other. Subsidiary company for sales was incorporated in England as a private company Powers-Samas Accounting Machines Ltd

1936 Name of British parent company changed to Powers Accounting Machines Ltd[5].

1939 Acquired controlling interest in S.A.M.A.S. [6].

Post-war the interest in S.A.M.A.S. was reduced to 45%. Vickers-Armstrongs was contracted to produce product for the company to cope with the increased demand[7].

1945 Vickers took an interest in the company[8] by purchasing the shares that had been held by Prudential Assurance Co since 1915[9]

1947 British Industries Fair Advert as Manufacturers of Punched Card Accounting Machines and equipment for the complete mechanisation of all clerical work in connection with Accounting, Costing, Production Control, Payroll, Stock Records, Market Research and Statistical Analysis. (Office Appliances Section - Olympia, Ground Floor, Stands No. B.1451 and B.1448) [10]

1948 Public company floated; name of subsidiary changed to Powers-Samas Accounting Machines (Sales) Ltd; name of parent company changed to Powers-Samas Accounting Machines Ltd[11].

1948 Vickers increased its interest to 59% and treated the company as a subsidiary[12].

1949 Powers-Samas, one of only 2 British companies involved in punched card machines, terminated its licensing agreements with Remington Rand.[13]

Vickers (Crayford) constructed accounting machines for Powers-Samas

1955 Took a factory at Southport on long lease from Brockhouse Engineering (Southport) to give more capacity for punched card accounting machines[14]

1959 Powers-Samas merged with British Tabulating Machine Co to form International Computers and Tabulators (ICT) [15]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer, By Jon Agar
  2. ICL: a business and technical history, By Martin Campbell-Kelly Clarendon Press, 1989
  3. The Times, 6 July 1948
  4. International Directory of Company Histories, Volume 6, by Paula Kepos, Thomas Derdak, St. James Press, 1992
  5. The Times, 6 July 1948
  6. The Times, 6 July 1948
  7. The Times, 6 July 1948
  8. The Times, 25 May 1949
  9. Inventing the Electronic Century: The Epic Story of the Consumer Electronics ... By Alfred Dupont CHANDLER, Takashi Hikino, Andrew Von Nordenflycht, Alfred D Chandler (2009)
  10. 1947 British Industries Fair Advert 375; and p222
  11. The Times, 6 July 1948
  12. The Times, 25 May 1949
  13. The Prehistory of the 1900 Series Arthur Humphreys [1]
  14. The Times, Sep 23, 1955
  15. [2] Wikipedia
  • The Staffordshire University Computing Futures Museum [3].