Fort's Shoeboxes

GNC

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#1
There's a letter in FT341 asking what Fort's shoeboxes (where he stored his data) would have been designed for. Nobody seems to think they were for shoes, but the writer mentions they could fit a pair of shoes packed heel to toe, which I think sounds most likely. Fort certainly got a lot of them, wherever he found them. Anyone have any other ideas?
 

JamesWhitehead

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#2
A box and some of the cards illustrated on this Corliss article.

Carl Pabst's transcriptions of the cards were promised as Coming Soon in 2015.

I also found a page on how to construct a fort out of shoe-boxes.

Some sources state the boxes were arranged as pigeon-holes on the wall, which makes a certain sense if the cards needed to be classified and not kept in creation-order. Turning them into a relational database might be the natural step - for someone with an unnatural amount of time.

I'd guess that the shoe-box name just refers to their size. Knowing Fort's thrifty ways, they were probably a job-lot or repurposed. I doubt he was a secret Imelda Marcos. :)
 

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#4
I bet he could sing better than Imelda. Anyway, it does bring up the question, whether he was actually using boxes specifically designed for his files cards after all? He can't be the only data hoarder who needed something like that for storage.
 

ChasFink

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#5
Couldn't they just be the boxes his blank file cards came in? I realize most of us buy file cards in smaller boxes or wrapped in clear plastic, but could larger quantities have come in larger boxes?
 

GNC

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#7
The letters page of the current issue has come up with a solution: they were boxes for pianola rolls repurposed for data. I'm convinced, there's even a photo.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#8
they were boxes for pianola rolls
I grew up with a pianola. There was a tendency for the frequently-played rolls to outlive their boxes, which were not that robust iirc. Rolls vary a lot in their girth, depending on the length of the piece recorded, so there was no standard width for the boxes. I wonder where Fort found a surplus supply? :confused:

Edit 22.07.2016
To muddy the waters further, the illustration in the Corliss article linked above is certainly not a pianola-roll box. Much more plausibly a shoe-box, which is where we came in. Maybe Fort just used what he could scavenge?
 
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