United States Patent 3806705

A data logging and organizing machine which obviates the necessity for a traditional type computer, computer programmer, keypunch machine, and keypunch operator. Data is entered directly into the machine by an employee from his time card through a combination of automatic and manual processes, stored on an inexpensive tape cartridge, and made availabe according to any of a number of desired classifications or criteria. The machine itself sequentially provides information as to its operation so that almost any lay person can quickly enter and retrieve data simply by selecting a category and pressing buttons in accordance with preprogrammed instructions. A search of the tape is accordingly executed and all data corresponding to the category chosen is retrieved and printed out by a conventional printer.

Reilly, Richard J. (St. Paul, MN)
Merrill, Glen L. (St. Paul, MN)
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International Classes:
G06K1/00; G06K1/18; G06K19/00; (IPC1-7): G06K1/20; G06K19/08; H04Q5/02
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Primary Examiner:
Cook, Dardaryl W.
Assistant Examiner:
Kilgore, Robert M.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Schulte, Neil B.
I claim

1. A data logging and organizing machine operable to accept data from a card which has address information characters printed in written language and in machine readable encoded dot patterns on one portion thereof and numerical hand entered data on another portion and further operable to return that data in organized categories selected by the operator comprising in combination:

2. The apparatus of claim 1 including empty character counting means connected to said data accepting means and to said gating means so as to pass data from said main memory to said printing means if all the entries on the card are empty.


It is common practice today to provide assistance to first line project managers with computers that compile data for the project manager as to how much time and money is being spent by various individuals under his direction on various projects with which he is concerned. Information is also compiled on estimates of how long it may take to complete a project, the amount of money that may yet have to be spent, the inventory that is consumed, the number of man hours devoted to the project, and various other categories of data. It is quite difficult for the manager himself to correlate all this information into meaningful categories and, as a consequence, many corporations have used their computers to organize and display this data in a helpful manner. However, the conventional computer requires that all of the information be first collected and then reduced to standard type inputs adaptable to the particular computer. This requires a keypunch machine and a trained, highly skilled, and very expensive employee to operate the keypunch machine. In addition, the computer frequently requires a professional programmer to yield the desired information. It is, thus, very expensive to provide these functions. In fact, the expense is certainly out of the realm of practicability for relatively small companies with a limited number of employees. Even with large companies, that can afford the computers, problems are encountered since the very expensive computers are used first to perform more urgent functions such as billing, accounting, etc., and it is not unknown to have delays of as much as 4 to 6 weeks in retrieving this management data. Clearly, after 4 to 6 weeks the information originally compiled and assembled is no longer of any real use to the project manager in assessing the current situation. Managers need information immediately upon its submittal. Yet most project managers cannot afford to purchase highly complicated computers and the associated keypunch services to achieve only this end. Our invention is intended to close this information gap by providing a relatively inexpensive machine which can be used both by small companies, without computers, and by large companies, in addition to their computers, to provide immediate project management information in clear and concise form so that intelligent decisions can be made and problems can be met beforehand, thus speeding the completion and improving the efficiency of any given project.


Briefly, my invention contemplates making use of two important factors common to business today to provide a solution to the above described problems. The first factor involves the fact that in most projects which are partly or wholly funded by the government, a written record of time, expenditures, and allocation of efforts is required. Besides the government requirement, it is a common practice throughout industry to provide employees with time cards which they fill out, typically, at the end of each week. Our invention contemplates that since these written time cards are being provided anyway they could be utilized to assemble additional information for project management. Thus, our invention provides a modified type of time card which will incorporate all of this information. To use this time card each employee is provided with a small plastic identification card which has his name written in English thereon and also encoded thereon is a standard code format. He is also provided with a similarly prepared plastic task card carrying information on an assigned task, which he may utilize as long as he is working on a particular project. At the end of a day or week, when the employee fills out his time card indicating the amount of time and money he has expended on any individual task, he simply inserts his time card along with his plastic identification, and task cards in an imprinter similar to the type commonly used for credit card operations. This imprinter serves to imprint the employee's name, the data and the task identification on his time card, both in English characters and in a standard machine readable code. The date is imprinted by means of a plastic card already inserted in the imprinting machine. He then manually enters the data on the time card in one of six different categories. Each category relates to a specific grouping of information. More or less than six categories could be used if desired although six have been chosen in the preferred embodiment. The employee prepares a separate time card representing his efforts expended for each of the various projects to which he is assigned. All of these imprinted cards, from the various employees, are then inserted into the machine proposed by the present invention. This machine is designed to automatically read the encoded data regarding the employee, date, and task and, at the same time, to permit the time and money expenditure data to be manually entered on a keyboard. This information is all stored on an inexpensive tape cassette. It is at this point that the second factor can be pointed out with respect to the design of our invention. Since the machine is not required to do any other sophisticated computer operations such as billing or accounting it can be, relatively speaking, very slow in retrieving data from memory. It is this factor which permits a very inexpensive machine to be designed using a tape cassette for a memory.

A manager can retrieve data from the tape cassette memory by simply operating the machine in the printout mode and entering another card similar to the time card with information regarding the task or the employee or the date, or any combination of these and the machine will return all data entered to that point which matches this input card. In the alternative he can insert a card with, for example, the employee identification omitted and the machine will return data for all employees. This is true because the machine is designed to interpet blank entries as a request for all data. Therefore, if a card is entered which is blank as to date, task, and employee the machine will return all the data it has on tape.

The advantages of a system of this type are numerous. No programmer is required. The physically large computer and keypunch machines are eliminated. The machine of our invention is so compact that it can be mounted on a table top immediately convenient to the management staff. It is not necessary to have a highly trained keypunch employee to reduce all the data to cards which the machine can accept since the machine provides its own instructions on operations, thus, making it so simple to operate that most any lay person including the employees themselves can enter their own time card data. Data from the identifying plastic cards, which indicate the task, date and the employee's name can be used to imprint a time card which can be run through the machine once, to veryify correct =information content on the plastic card. Once verified, the plastic cards may be used over and over to imprint time cards and an error is never introduced. This is to be contrasted with the situation in which all of the data must be repeatedly translated by means of a keypunch operator permitting the possibility of error in every entry. Another advantage of the system is that it insures that all the various projects have complete and accurate representations of the amount of expenditure of time and money for that project alone. This is made possible by the close control of the plastic cards identifying the task. Without the proper card no one can make a charge to a project. Absolute security can be provided by having the project manager hand out the task cards only in approved situations wherein the proper data is being entered. This eliminates a problem common throughout business operations today wherein expenditures of time are casually switched about to make budgets balance and to cover up improper activities. The system of our invention can be used to immediately identify the particular individual performing such a misrepresentation so that no intervening passage of four to six weeks obscures the true situation.

The speed with which the data is returned is of utmost importance. Approximately 1,300 employee reports may be stored on one side of a tape cassette cartridge which can be completely searched in about 90 seconds. Thus, retrieval speed is ultimately limited by the speed of the printing device utilized with the system. If the least expensive printer available is used, the typical printing time is 5 - 6 seconds per record and a print-out of data on a particular project or employee is normally completed in 2 to 3 minutes. A manager may choose to find how much money was spent by a particular person or on a particular project. He may want to know the number of man hours which have been estimated it will take to complete a certain project. He can obtain all this data without waiting for it to be reduced and processed by a computer and without having to wait for the more urgent operations to be completed. The cost savings are, of course, tremendous. It has been found that the cost of the entire system of this invention is actually less than the keypunch machine itself not to mention the large cost of a computer. Many more advantages are inherent in the system of this invention but they will be discussed later with respect to the detailed description. It may be seen at this point that it is an object of this invention to provide an improved information logging and retrieving system which can be used to provide immediate business management information at an extremely low cost. Further objects and advantages will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and drawings.


FIG. 1 is a pictorial showing of the general format of the time card utilized with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a schematic drawing showing how the plastic cards identifying the employee, the date, and the task are positioned over the time card in order to imprint the information thereon.

FIG. 3 is an edge view of one of the plastic cards showing how the English information and the encoding is embossed thereon.

FIG. 4 is a generally pictorial view showing the front panel of the present invention to facilitate in understanding the operation of the machine.

FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram showing generally the data flow circuit of the present invention. =

FIG. 6 and FIG. 7 show in greater detail some portions of the circuit of FIG. 5.

FIG. 8 shows how two of the reader head sensors are slightly displaced to assist in achieving proper entry of the data.

FIG. 9 shows the optical reader circuitry that utilizes the displaced sensors.


In FIG. 1 the format of the time card 10 is pictorially described. In section 11 of the card, identification is provided by imprinting thereon with a plastic card the name of the employee, the date and the particular task with which he is dealing. Each employee has assigned to him a plastic card 12 which identifies him personally. Installed in the imprinting machine is a small plastic card 13 which provides the date. A task card 14 is also given the employee against which he may make charges for individual projects. As mentioned before this task card may be kept until the end of a given project or it may be allowed out to the employee only when he is filling out his time card. Various arrangements are possible depending upon the user's accounting system and the degree of security desired.

In FIG. 3 an edge view of one of these plastic cards is provided. The card 14 has a small embossed aluminum strip 15 glued or otherwise affixed thereto which serves to print out the task in a written language such as English. The card itself also has a number of plastic risers 16 formed thereon in a certain pattern designed to represent, in code, the same information presented on the aluminum embossing strip 15. In the preferred embodiment, this code language has been chosen to be a modified American Standard Code (ASCII). In FIG. 2 it may be seen that card 10 is provided with a carbon paper 17 on the top surface thereof. The plastic cards 12, 13 and 14 are positioned immediately adjacent the time card. The plastic cards and the time card are inserted in an imprinting machine of the type commonly used with credit cards and the information is impressed onto the time card 10 to produce a pattern such as shown in FIG. 1.

Referring to FIG. 1, in identification area 11, the data is imprinted on the card at location 18 in English and at location 19 in code. The particular individual is indicated at location 20 in English and at location 21 in code. The task is indicated at location 22 in English and location 23 in code. The time card includes three other categories as well. Zone 24 covers actual expenditures of time and money that have taken place. Zone 25 involves estimates of how long and how much work it will take to finish the job in weeks and man weeks and further how much money is anticipated will be required. Zone 26 provides space to enter a date. Arranged vertically along the left hand side of the card it may be seen that six different categories of information may be provided. This number has been chosen as being most desirable in the preferred embodiment but it should be understood that additional categories could be provided, as well, simply by expanding the format of the card. Category 1 relates to actual money expenditures only. As a consequence the remaining areas are blanked out as shown so that if an employee wishes to indicate how much money he has spent on a particular project he simply fills out category 1. If he spent 361 dollars on March 14 he shows this by entering 361 as shown and indicates that it was spent on the date 3-14. Another dating system can be used for the last column wherein the number of the week and the day in the week are used. For example, =Thursday of the last week of the year could be designated as 4-52 or 4-01 depending on which way the weeks are numbered. Such a system never requires over a three digit number. This is the total amount of information that would go on a single time card. If the employee wishes to indicate how much time he has devoted to a particular project he would prepare another card and fill in data for category 3 under the column man hours and the date on which they were performed. To make an estimate of how long it might take to complete a project, category 6 would be completed indicating the man weeks, the weeks, and the amount of money it is anticipated will be necessary to finish by the date indicated in the last column under Zone 26. To provide all of the data simultaneously, a category 5 card would be completed. To store this information the time card would then be processed by the machine whose front panel is shown in FIG. 4.

The machine of FIG. 4 is designed to be simple and self guiding so that most any person can operate it including the employee who prepares his own time card with the information described earlier. This arrangement eliminates the necessity of a special, highly trained keypunch operator. The operation of the machine is as follows. A power switch 27 is activated to turn the machine on. This operation illuminates a light 82 indicating to the operator to clear the record section by pushing button 52. When the operator pushes button 52 he sets all of the logic circuitry of the machine in condition to record =information. At the same time button 52 activates a light 83 which instructs him to select the category or type of check that he is entering. In the case shown in FIG. 1 the information is entered in category 1 or check type 1 and consequently the operator would press button 55 which is the button indicating the check type 1. Button 55 activates a light source 76a underneath the 1 indicating his selection and also illuminates a light source 76 above the card reading portion indicating the location on the time card of category or check type 1. Button 55 also activates a light 84 (as do all the buttons 55 to 60) instructing the operator to insert the card. In addition, button 55 starts an electric motor which powers an automatic card traversing system. The card is inserted into the right side of a slot or guideway 28 and underneath the optical card reader 29. The electric card reader motor carries the card into guide slot 28 in a manner well known to those skilled in the art. The card is carried underneath optical reader 29 and across in the direction of arrow 30 to a position part way underneath housing 31. At this point in time the card stops. The design of the machine is such that the frame formed by housing 31, reader 29, and the top and bottom of guide channel 28 exposes just the right hand zones of the cards 24, 25 and 26. The information regarding the date, the employee, and the task have been already automatically entered into an electronic memory by optical reader 29 which senses the information in areas 19, 21 and 23 of the time card. Since the check type 1 has been selected a light 71 is activated by the logic circuits of the machine. Light 71 is directly above the column wherein there is information written in regarding the purchases of $361.00. As the card comes to a stop between housing 31 and reader 29 a light 32 comes on instructing the operator to enter the data. In response to this indication the operator notes the corresponding intersection indicated by lights 76 and 71 and knows thereby that he is suppose to enter the data from that position. Seeing 361 he would punch 361 on the keyboard 40. As he does the number 361 appears in the window 50. Window 50 includes a seven digit display which is large enough to accommodate any of the spaces shown on the time card. In this particular case seven digits could be accommodated and therefore all seven of the lights 33 through 39 would be on indicating that this was the case. However, only three digits are entered since that is the actual number being dealt with. Upon completing the number the operator pushes button 62 and the number 361 is directed into the electronic memory. Button 62 also sequences lights 70 - 75. But since lights 70 - 75 are controlled by logic circuits some lights are skipped and light 75 comes on. Light 75 indicates that information should be entered from the last column. The operator punches the numbers 3 14 as he sees them on the card and these numbers appear on the seven digit display 50. This time only three digits can be entered and therefore only lights 37, 38 and 39 are on indicating that this is the case. Once the number is displayed data may be put into the electronic memory by pushing button 62 again. Since all of the information for check type 1 has now been entered into the electronic memory record light 41 comes on indicating that the information should be recorded. Responding to this instruction the operator pushes button 64 which causes all of the recorded information in the memory to be transferred to a small, cassette-type, tape deck where it is stored for future reference. At the same time the card reader motor starts and time card 10 continues on in the direction of arrow 30, underneath housing 31, and into a storage bin below where it may no longer be altered or changed by the employee. This provides the permanent written record required by many businesses and by the government. A parity check is done on the data going into the memory in a manner well known to those skilled in the art. If there appears to be an error it will show on light 66 and the card is automatically returned. If, at any time, the operator suspects an error in his entry procedure, he may push button 65 to retrieve the card from the machine and cancel the input of data.

In another example of how data would be entered one might consider a check type 5 entry. In this case the card would be prepared as before utilizing the three plastic cards to indicate the task, employee, and the date. Since the information is to be in check 5 which is an all encompassing category information is entered in all of the zones 24, 25 and 26. It should be noted that Zone 24 comprises two numbered entries which are referred to herein as fields. Zone 25 comprises three entries or three fields and Zone 27 comprises a single entry or field. Thus, in all six entries or numbers can be provided in six fields in check type 5. Consequently, after the machine has been cleared with button 52 the employee entering the data for check type 5 would press button 59 in the drawing which would activate lights 80, 80a and 84. After inserting the card in response to the indication on light 84 lights 70 and 80 would indicate that data should be entered from column 1 row 5 relating to man hours. After that data is entered, a light 71 would come on indicating that the data should be entered from the second field row 5 relating to purchases. After that data has been entered, light 72 would come indicating that the number of man weeks to finish as shown in the field three should be entered. This process would continue through lights 73, 74 and 75 and at the end of the seuqence the record light 41 would come on indicating that button 64 should be pushed to transfer all of the entered data into the main tape memory.

It is contemplated that each individual employee would prepare a series of cards representing his endeavors for the week, or the day, as the case may be, and enter then himself into the machine. It is, however possible that a single secretary could have the responsibility of making these entries after she gathered together all of the time cards.

When all of the information has been inserted the supervisor or project manager can now get an organized print-out of all of this information by a simple reverse process. Firstly he prepares a time card similar to the ones upon which data is entered. The machine operates according to a matching principle so that if he is interested in a particular task he may recover all entries relating to that task simply by inserting a plastic card identifying the task and imprinting it onto a time card. When this time card is inserted in the slot and the print sequence is followed the machine is connected to a standard printer so as to print out all entries relating to that task. If in fact he wants all of the entries performed by an individual employee on a particular task he would make an entry which would identify both the employee and the task. If he should want only those entries relating to a particular employee working on a particular task on a particular day he would enter all three of these =types of information. In the alternative, the supervisor can enter a card which is blank in one of the three areas (i.e., task) and the machine will print out all entries in that area (i.e., all the different tasks). He can run a check in any of the six different categories by pressing the appropriate button on the face of the machine.

The operation would be as follows. The manager would first press button 68 which would clear the entire logic circuitry of the machine and prepare it for the print out function. A light 42 activated by button 68 would come on indicating to him that he should select the check type that he prefers. To select the check type he would press one of the same buttons 55 through 60 utilized during the recording phase. For example, if he wishes to run a number 1 check he would press button 55. He would push button 54 in order to obtain any check type which may have been entered. It in essence tells the machine to ignore the check types in the comparison so it only compares on task, date, employee or any combination thereof. A light source 43 then comes on indicating to him to insert the card. He would insert the card from the right underneath optical reader 29 as before. The reader 29 would read the information regarding the task and/or the employee and/or the day and enter this information into the same electronic memory as used with respect to the recording phase. A light 44 now indicates to the manager that he should activate the print out phase. He does this by pressing a button 69. Data in the electronic memory is transferred to a parameter memory and at the same time the tape deck memory system is rewound to the beginning and begins to go forward in a complete search for any data that corresponded to the data already transferred to the parameter memory. In addition, since a type 1 check was requested only information in that category is selected. In time the information regarding the 361 dollar expenditure on March 14th is produced. If during the course of the week other card entries had been made regarding other expenditures on this task they =would also be listed. Button 67 and light 45 operate in the same way as described with respect to light 66 and button 65 to indicate a card reading error of some sort and permit the print-out generating card to be withdrawn. In FIG. 5 a schematic drawing of the circuitry of the present invention is shown.

FIG. 5 indicates that the data input comprises both a reader input 80 and a keyboard encoder and driver 81. Data from both of these sources is transmitted to a data buss 82. From data buss 82 the information is processed by a field and data character counter 85. Field and data character counter 85 may comprise shift registers operable to accept data characters in sequence and count up to the number of characters necessary to comprise each successive field in a manner well known to those skilled in the computer sciences. Counter 85 keeps track of the number of data characters to determine which particular field of information is being dealt with and, in turn, transfers the data to another shift register in counter 85 which keeps track of the individual fields. A timing circuit 83 simultaneously drives solid state electronic main memory 89 and the field and memory character counter 84 in synchronism. Main memory 89 is of the recycling memory variety well known to those skilled in the art and may comprise, for example, an integrated circuit of the type produced by National Semi-Conductor Company and identified by the No. MM5006. The rate of cycling of main memory 89 is controlled by timing means 83. Likewise the rate of cycling of field and memory character counter 84 is syncronized with the main memory. The output of the field and memory character counter 84 is compared by a comparator 86 to the output from field and data character counter 85. Whenever the accumulated count on counter 85 matches the accumulated count on counter 84 the comparator 86 operates a gate 87 to gate the data characters into main memory 89 from counter 85 where they are momentarily present. It is of course important that each character be stored in the main memory in its proper position. Consequently, only when the data count or position in counter 85 corresponds with the data character count or position in counter 84 will comparator 86 allow that character to pass through to be stored in main memory 89. Referring back momentarily to FIG. 1 it should be noted that many of the fields are not utilized in the different check types. It is therefore important to keep the count in counter 85 progressing during the blank fields even though no data is present and also prevent data from being stored in the main memory during that interval. This is accomplished by a field selector 90 which operates in response to check type selector switches 54 through 60 to disable the passage of data through counter 85 for certain select periods corresponding to those blank spaces on the time card 10. Field selector 90 may comprise a write enable diode matrix constructed according to principles well known to those skilled in the art and is therefore not described in detail in this application. When the record button 64 is pushed a gate 91 is activated allowing the recycling data in main memory 89 to be transferred therethrough to the tape deck 92. Button 64 also activates tape control circuitry 93 which moves the tape forward in a cordinated manner according to principles well known to those skilled in the art. Tape transport mechanisms of this type are well known in the computer arts and therefore are not described in greater detail here.

In order to make a search of the available data a similar type of time card is entered in the machine having data on it corresponding to the information which is to be matched. This information is recorded by the reader input 80 through data buss 82 and cycled into main memory 89 in exactly the same fashion as described with respect to the recording function. Button 69 activates a gate 101 which transfers the information from main memory 89 into a parameter memory 100. Parameter memory 100 is similar to main memory 89 and is of the recycling type driven by timing means 83 in synchronism with main memory 89. However, parameter memory 100 may be made from a substantially smaller integrated circuit since it need handle only the address information printed in zones 19, 21 and 23 of the time card. When the print button 69 is pressed tape control 93 is again activated so as to rewind and playback memory tape deck 92 and transfer information through a lead 94 to the now empty main memory 89. The address information is now recycled in parameter memory 100 while the information originally stored on tape 92 has been entered into main memory 89 where it is also recycling. The data from memories 100 and 89 are transferred by means of a pair of leads 105 and 104 to a comparator 102. If a comparison is made indicating that the address information from the tape compares exactly to the address information in the parameter memory the comparator 102 activates, through an OR gate 122, a gate 120 which allows data from main memory 89 to pass to a conventional computer print-out machine 103 which prints the information presently in the main memory.

Since the data logging machine is intended to respond to either an exact match or a blank entry on the card inserted for print-out purposes a secondary circuit is provided to detect this blank entry condition. The address information recycling in parameter memory 100 is directed to an empty character counter 124. Each field is preceded by a "begin record" character and completed with an "end of record" character. Counter 124 is operable to recognize these characters in a manner well known to the art and determine the number of empty characters therebetween. If all the characters are empty indicating a card with a blank code counter 124 operates through OR gate 122 to open gate 120 thus allowing all data to pass from main memory 89 to printer 103 which data corresponds in sequence to the desired data. Consequently, if the print-out card is left blank in the task area all task information is gated provided the date, and employee information correspond. If the task and employee are omitted only the date need be imprinted on the card to retrieve all task data for all employees on that data and if no information is on the card at all, everything on the tape memory, transferred to the main memory, is printed out and the total data is retrieved.

If no match is made and no blank areas are present on the time card to gate data, tape control 93 allows the tape 92 to advance progressively through successive increments and transfer successive blocks of information (corresponding to other time card entries) onto main memory 89 for comparison with the data in the parameter memory. A check sum register 106 compares the total amount of data released from the memories to a predetermined amount and any deviation from that amount is used to trigger light 45 indicating an error of some sort. Seeing this the operator would retrieve the card with button 67.

Referring to the front panel as shown in FIG. 4 each of the sequential operational lights would be controlled either by the switch in the step immediately before it or by the completion of the task immediately before it. The light source 42 indicating the selection of check type or the light source 83 making the same indication would be activated by the operation of clearing switches 68 and 52. Clearing switches 68 and 52 themselves would operate in a manner well known to those skilled in the art to clear all of the logic circuitry to a given beginning state. Switch 68 would of course clear them to a beginning state corresponding to the print mode whereas switch 52 would clear it to a beginning state corresponding to the record mode. The insert card light 43 would operate in response to the activation of one of the switches 54 through 60 and would be deactivated by the reception of the correct amount of optical information in reader 29 as determined by counter 85. Light 44 indicating readiness to print out would be activated by the completion of the reception of data from optical reader 29. Switches 67 and 65 are connected to the motor control mechanism in a manner well known to those skilled in the art to back the card out of slot 28. Light source 32 indicating that data should be entered operates in response to a full load of data as indicated by field and data character counter 85.

In FIG. 6 optical reader input 80 is shown in greater detail. It may be seen that reader head 29 is connected to a reader interface 110 of construction well known in the art. Reader interface 110 passes the information to data buss 82. A parity error check is also conducted by an error check circuit 112 in the conventional manner and if an error is discovered the information is used to illuminate light 66 and back the card out of the machine.

The keyboard encoder and driver 81 is shown in greater detail in FIG. 7. The keyboard 40 output is directed to a 7 × 4 buffer memory 114 and from there to the seven digit display decoder driver 116 which operates seven digit display 50. The output from buffer memory 114 is allowed to pass to the data buss 82 by a means of a selection gate 118 which operates in response to a signal from field and data character counter 85. In FIG. 7 it is also noted that counter 85 controls lights 33 through 39 which indicate the number of characters that will be acceptable in the particular field being worked with.

In FIG. 8 it may be schematically seen that the reader head is manufactured in such a way as to produce a slight offset in the top and bottom sensors for each character in the code. This offset amounts to a slight movement to the left by a distance d for the top sensor and a small offset to the right by a distance d for the bottom sensor. In the preferred embodiment d has been chosen to be about one-fourth of the diameter of the dots on time card 10. The top and bottom sensor comprise indicators which serve to insure that the optical reader 29 is properly viewing the intermediate seven dots when date is accepted. In FIG. 9 it may be seen that optical reader 29 utilizes nine sensors which could comprise nine phototransistors 120 - 128 to sense the absence or presence of a dot in a manner well known to those skilled in the art. In the preferred embodiment of this invention the top and bottom phototransistors which are offset have their outputs connected to an AND gate 130. AND gate 130 has an output connected to a second gate 132 which controls and gates all of the outputs from the remaining phototransistors to the reader interface 110. Since the top and bottom sensors are intentionally displaced slightly left and slightly right the only time data is accepted from the remaining dot locations is at the point in time during which both the top and bottom dots are providing inputs to offset sensors 120 and 128. Only under this condition is gate 130 activated so as to pass this data from the remaining phototransistors through gate 132. This arrangement insures that slight misregistrations of the remaining seven dot locations will not cause a misreading of the character represented by the column. The slight displacement of the top and bottom sensors insures that all of the intermediate dots will be properly aligned with the other sensors before a signal is passed to reader interface 110.

It may thus be seen that we have provided apparatus wherein data can be logged and retrieved easily and cheaply by a compact machine. To our knowledge no prior art machines are available which can operate as described herein to accept random inputs of data, organize it, and search and select out data according to predetermined categories without the necessity of keypunch operators and computer programmers. Also, we know of no prior art machines which can work with such a simple and inexpensive tape memory and be applicable to so many different types of data and task including project expense and time management and inventory management.

Furthermore, the prior art includes no machines which will interpret blank entries as a kind of data representing all types of data normally in the space where the blank entry is discovered and print out all the data in response thereto. Thus, in our invention data which will generate a successful comparison can be defined as including both regular characters and blank entries.