typewriting machines vs. computers in B. Amsterdam

Let us take you back in time, back when B. was still in between the I and the M. We got a brief history lesson from Antonio Cogni, who moved from Italy to the Netherlands to work as an employee at the IBM typewriter factory for over 28 years.

In ’67 Antonio starts to work in the factory to assemble electric typewriting machines. He works with 15 people in his assembly line, finishing 15 typewriting machines a day. Some parts come in from America, but depending on the oscillating prices most parts are made at the Johan Huizingalaan. All the different departments from producing to packaging, purchases and sales take place in the black cube where B. is located today.

// no modern society without the punch card
Later in his career Antonio applies for a function in the Telex room. Antonio is one of the few wtypewriterho learned how to blind type, a remaining skill from his duty in the Italian army. Because of the high confidential information that’s treated in the Telexroom it isn’t easy to get access to it. Decisions made in the boardrooms from IBM offices across the world go through this specific room.

Communication takes place by punch cards. Text is translated into small punches, in what ends up looking like a long receipt with perforated holes from top to bottom. ‘Can you think of modern society without the punch card?’ is the slogan at this time. This secret language is used to make sure that possible competitors in the business won’t intercept their messages.

// the introduction of the computer
As the computer is introduced and the punch card disappears for communication, there seems to be no work left for Antonio. With all the progress and innovation made at this time, it is regular for people to switch functions or lose their jobs. Different employees are offered the change of retraining for another job within IBM. That’s how one day Antonio is reassigned to quite a peculiar job. It’s during this time that IBM had borrowed several paintings from the Rijksmuseum to spice up the offices. That week, it’s Antonio’s job to make sure all the paintings are still on the right spots and undamaged.

When Antonio hears about what is happening in B. nowadays, he smiles but also shows an expression of misunderstanding. It is the same as him going over the details of the typewriting machine to us. What is so obvious for one can be secret language for the other.


// blog by growth hacker Bram Wulp