Wired Enterprise has a fascinating piece on Social Security's crucial role in IBM's history. In short, the story is that IBM management thought that the Great Depression would be a short term event. They kept expanding staff and building inventory. This mistake might have caused IBM to go under but for the creation of Social Security. The new agency needed data processing machinery -- at that time card reading collators -- in a big way to keep track of F.I.C.A. contributions. IBM was the only company ready to do the job. The Social Security contract saved IBM. The 80 column punch cards developed by IBM for Social Security became an industry standard for 45 years. Those collators that were essential for Social Security and which allowed IBM to survive and eventually thrive were first shipped 75 years ago this month.