Science: By the Numbers

In a large green-carpeted hall jammed with college students, flashing phones and clacking keypunch machines, Columbia University Student John Perrotta took the first call from Wisconsin at precisely 9:07 p.m. Perrotta pulled out a coded sheet of paper and quickly penciled in the totals: 133 votes for Gerald Ford; 83 for Ronald Reagan. He noted the call had come from Milwaukee's Fifth Congressional District and handed the sheet to a dungaree-clad coed, who took it to a bank of keypunch operators.

Within three minutes the vote total was punched, scanned, electronically sent to...

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