The History of the Hole Punch and How it Completely Changed the World

The hole punch isn’t the most impressive invention that can be found out there. This is because a hole punch is nothing more than bladed cylinders that can be manipulated using a lever, thus making it a very simple and straightforward solution for a very simple and straightforward problem. With that said, while hole punches might not be particularly glamorous, their existence is well-worth celebrating because they have proven to be so useful for such a wide range of people.

Simply put, keeping paper documents in good order would be much more difficult without the existence of the hole punch. With said tool, interested individuals would find it a huge inconvenience to punch standardized holes in paper documents, thus enabling them to be stored in binders for ease of storage as well as convenience of access. In contrast, when one has a hole punch with them, punching standardized holes is the simplest process that there can be. Of course, the increasing digitization of documents means that paper documents are becoming less and less prominent, but so long as paper documents still see use, the hole punch is pretty much guaranteed a spot of honor in any office repertoire.

How Did the Hole Punch Come Into Existence?

With that said, it is interesting to note that the hole punch is a relatively recent invention compared to paper. In short, the invention of paper is credited to a Chinese eunuch named Cai Lun who lived from 48 to 121 AD, but since there is evidence of Chinese paper-making before that point in time, he cannot claim credit for inventing the process even if he can claim credit for making improvements through standardization. Meanwhile, the hole punch wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, which is very recent in the grand scheme of things.

However, a number of people came up with similar tools at around the same time. For example, a man named Benjamin Smith invented a spring-loaded hole puncher that came complete with a receptacle for collecting the little pieces of paper that would be punched out in the process. Meanwhile, another man named Charles Brooks came out with something similar in 1893, though his tool was called a ticket punch rather than a conductor’s punch. On top of these, there are a lot of people who will be most familiar with the hole punch’s invention because of the German Friedrich Soennecken because he was the one celebrated by a Google Doodle in 2017. In his case, he had his paper punch patented in 1886, meaning that the Google Doodle was meant to celebrate its 131th anniversary. As for why these tools seem to have an association with train tickets, train travel was becoming more and more important in the second half of the 19th century, which in turn, means that there was a greater and greater need for something like the hole punch.

Regarding the issue of why it took so long for hole punches to show up, well, it seems probable that it has something to do with the new possibilities that were appearing in those times. For example, while paper had been produced for centuries and centuries by that point in time, mass industrialization had made it cheaper than ever before. As a result, more people were able to get their hands on a steady supply of good paper. Moreover, a wider range of people were able to get their hands on good paper, thus creating an increased number of something along the lines of a hole punch. Of course, the other side of things wasn’t exactly idle in this particular period, see as how it was the improvement in various fields that actually enabled the mass production of reliable, dependable tools that could be genuinely standardized. In other words, the hole punch came along at the time when it was both needed and possible, which in turn, explains how it managed to carve out a market for itself in so decisive a manner.

Final Thoughts

Currently, the future is looking uncertain for the hole punch. The increasing digitization of processes that were once put to paper means that its future is suffering the same decline as that of paper. However, the chances of paper going away altogether is unlikely anytime soon, meaning that the hole punch still has plenty of life in it yet.


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