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Folded, Spindled and Mutilated

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 06, 2006

In Reply to: Folded, Spindled and Mutilated posted by Noein on June 06, 2006

: Folded, Spindled and Mutilated.what does this mean?and examples?thank you very much!

Your phrase, "Folded, Spindled and Mutilated," is a reference to another phrase, "Do not fold, spindle or mutilate." That, in turn, is a reminder of the "punched card" age. After World War II one of the big inventions of the post-war period was the computer. And I do mean "big" invention, since the first computers were huge. Their input and output of data relied on punched cards. Large business quickly began to use computers for, among other things, billing. The bill you got in the mail would very likely be a punched card, which you were supposed to return with your check. You could not process the returned cards if they were damaged, so recipients were warned: "Do not fold, spindle or mutilate." On many desks sat a spindle, a needle-lie device pointing upward on which to impale pieces of paper with which you expected eventually to concern yourself.

As computer technology rapidly moved forward, with augmentation of memorary and miniaturization of components and other improvements, it became possible to input data directly through a keyboard and print it out on regular paper. Thus, by the end of the '80s, there was generally no longer any need to say "Do not fold, spindle or mutilate." But millions of people had repeatedly read this injunction, almost invariably stated the same way like a religious incantation, and it was inevitable that whimsical and humor-minded inviduals would have fun with the words, declaring themselves, for instance, to have been Folded, Spindled and Mutilated.

The end of its widespread commercial use does not signal the end of the history of punch or punched cards. The action seems now to be primarily in the election area, in the technology of voting machines. See Florida, election of 2000. SS