The Florida vote-counting debacle during the 2000 US presidential election brought the rather obscure and obsolescent word chad to the attention of the public. A chad is that bit of paper left behind when punch cards and paper tape are perforated. Since by 2000 most of the computing world had abandoned punch cards and paper tape, the term had fallen out of use except in specialized applications such as voting.

The origin of the word is unknown. There are several possibilities and a couple of commonly touted explanations that are almost certainly false. While chads have been with us since the automated machinery was introduced into 18th century textile mills at the beginning of the industrial revolution, the word chad itself is relatively new and the name appears toward the end of the technology’s life cycle.

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