Data processing

Data processing is, generally, “the collection and manipulation of items of data to produce meaningful information.” [1] In this sense it can be considered a subset of information processing , “the change (processing) of information in any way detectable by an observer.” [Note 1]

The term Data Processing (DP) has also been used as a tool for the processing of applications. [2]

Data processing functions

Data processing may involve various processes, including:

  • Validation – Ensuring that the data is correct and relevant.
  • Sorting – “arranging items in some sequence and / or in different sets.”
  • Summarization – reducing detail to its main points.
  • Aggregation – combining multiple pieces of data.
  • Analysis – the “collection, organization , analysis, interpretation and presentation of data.”
  • Reporting – list detail or summary data or computed information.
  • Classification – separates data into various categories.


The United States Census Bureau illustrates the evolution of data processing from manual through electronic procedures.

Manual data processing

ALTHOUGH Widespread use of the term data processing dates only from the nineteen-fifties, [3] data processing functions-have-been Performed manually for millennia. For example, bookkeeping involves functions such as posting transactions and producing reports like the balance sheet and the cash flow statement . Completely manual methods were augmented by the application of mechanical or electronic calculators . A person whose job was to perform calculations manually or using a calculator was called a ” computer .”

The 1850 United States Census schedule was the first to gather data by individual rather than household . A number of questions could be answered in the appropriate box on the form. From 1850 through 1880 the Census Bureau employed a system of tallying, which, by reason of the growing number of combinations of classifications required, was increasingly complex. Handle the schedules 5 or 6 times, for as many independent tallies. ” [4] “It took over 7 years to publish the results of the 1880 census” [5] using manual processing methods.

Automatic data processing

The term automatic data processing Was Applied to Operations Performed by moyen de unit record equipment , Such As Herman Hollerith ‘s implementation of punched card equipment for the 1890 United States Census . “Using Hollerith’s punchcard equipment, the Census Office was able to complete 1890 census data in 2 to 3 years, compared with 7 to 8 years for the 1880 census …. It is also estimated that using Herman Hollerith’s system saved Some $ 5 million in processing costs ” [5] (in 1890 dollars) even with twice as many questions as during 1880.

Electronic data processing

Computerized data processing, or Electronic data processing . The Census Bureau first made limited use of electronic computers for the 1950 United States Census , using a UNIVAC I system, [4] Delivered in 1952.

Other developments

The term data processing has mostly been subsumed by the newer and somewhat more general term information technology (IT). Citation needed ] The term “data processing” is presently considered to have negative connotation, suggesting use of older technologies. As an example, in 1996 the Data Processing Management Association (DPMA) changed its name to the Association of Information Technology Professionals . Nevertheless, the terms are synonymous.


Commercial data processing

Main article: Electronic data processing

Commercial data processing involves a large volume of output data, relatively few computational operations, and a large volume of output. For example, an insurance company needs to keep records on tens or hundreds of policies, print and mail bills, and receive and post payments.

Data analysis

Main article: Data analysis

For science or engineering, the terms data processing and information systems are regarded too broad, and the more Specialized term data analysis is Typically used. Data analysis uses Specialized and precise algorithms and statistical calculations are less often That Observed in a general business environment typical. For data analysis, software like SPSS or SAS , or their free counterparts such as DAP , gretl or PSPP are often used.

See also

  • Data processing system
  • Big Data
  • computation


  1. Jump up^Data processing is distinct from word processing , which is manipulation of text. “Data processing” . Webopedia . Retrieved June 24, 2013 .


  1. Jump up^ French, Carl (1996). Data Processing and Information Technology (10th ed.) . Thomson. p. 2. ISBN  1844801004 .
  2. Jump up^ Illingworth, Valerie (11 December 1997). Dictionary of Computing . Oxford Paperback Reference (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN  9780192800466 .
  3. Jump up^ Google N gram viewer . Retrieved June 26, 2013 .
  4. ^ Jump up to:a b Truesdell, Leon E. (1965). The development of punch card tabulation in the Bureau of the Census, 1890 . United States Department of Commerce.
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b Bohme, Frederick; Wyatt, J. Paul; Curry, James P. (1991). 100 Years of Data Processing: The Punchcard Century . United States Bureau of the Census.

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