Punch cards were first developed in the 1830’s to direct the path of threads on looms, a process still used today in the manufacture of fine lace. Herman Hollerith borrowed the idea of punch cards for use in statistical analysis while working with the N.Y. Board of Health and the 1890 Census. As his tabulating machines grew more advanced he named his company International Business Machines (IBM). This digital based technology eventually evolved into the computers we know today. Computers had started to talk to one another back in 1969 before most of us had any idea what they were. In 1983 these network lines were divided for both military and private use. By 1985 there were up to 2000 users on line, and in 1988 the network was finally made available for commercial use. On August 6th of 1991 the World Wide Web was created as a means of aiding interpersonal exchange over the Internet, and within two years this service became free. The introduction and widespread use of the Internet has affected postcard collecting beyond expectations. Online auctions and sales have greatly extended the reach of both collectors and dealers. Individual collectors have created web sites to show off their cards. Local postcard clubs can now share information beyond their geographical communities. Ideas concerning postcards can now be shared on a scale never before achieved. There are now over one billion people online.
So when was the first eCard sent? It’s hard to say. Does email comprise the new postcard or is it something more? Email has certainly become the predominant way of sending quick cheap notes, which was the original purpose of the paper card. At some point images with notes attached that resemble paper postcards started being sent over the Internet lines, and by 1996 it became a popular practice. Ever since then there has been a number of online companies that offer copies of antique postcards alongside original modern designs that can be sent out through email. Designers have taken advantage of this new medium to create cards that talk and some that are even animated. These eCards have no physical reality other than magnetic energy floating out in cyberspace. This has created an entirely new set of concerns and opportunities for the eCard collector in regard to storage and display. It also raises new worries in regard to privacy as third party ecard stores can save the addresses on these cards and sell them. As this once free service becomes more commercialized, the user can expect ever higher fees. Despite that no postage is required, and that they can be made at home, eCards have not replaced snail-mail cards, at least not yet.
Use the link below for a more compleate history of this period.