Jacquards Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age

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Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Temporarily Out of Stock Online Please check back later for updated availability. Overview Circuits from silk?

Today's technophiles probably have no idea how much today's computer technology owes to the invention of one ingenuous textile manufacturer in nineteenth-century France. Here, master storyteller James Essinger shows through a series of remarkable and meticulously researched historical connections how the Jacquard loom kick-started a process of scientific evolution which would lead directly to the development of the modern computer.

Jacquard's invention, a loom which used punch cards with stored instructions for weaving different patterns and designs, enabled the master silk-weavers of Lyons to weave fabrics 25 times faster than the competition.

Jacquard's Web

Here, Essinger reveals the plethora of extraordinary links between that innovation in weaving and today's computer age, introducing us to the intriguing and colorful people who paved the way. The book concludes by bringing the story completely up-to-date with the latest developments in the World Wide Web and the fascinating phenomenon of artificial intelligence. Attractively illustrated and compellingly narrated, Jacquard's Web presents an eye-opening and scarcely known history that will prove fascinating to readers of popular science, especially those interested in the history of science, technology, and computing, as well as professional scientists, historians, and students.


About the Author James Essinger is a writer with a particular interest in the history of ideas that have had a practical impact on the modern world. He is currently working on a novel about Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace and on a popular history of the written word. Table of Contents Acknowledgements 1. The engraving that wasn't 2. A better mouse-trap 3. The son of a master weaver 4.

Jacquards Web How a HandLoom Led to the Birth of the Information Age by Essinger & James

The emperor's new clothes 5. From weaving to computing 6. The difference engine 7. Jacquard's Web is nevertheless a welcome book. Computer geeks think they are inheriting the Earth: it's time they learned about computing's creative roots in the textile trade.

james essinger: 13 Books available | hiqukycona.tk

The more so since automata maker Jacques de Vaucanson was also a grand fromage in the loom automation field. In a square in one of the older parts of the French city of Lyons there is a prominent stone statue of a man. Of the people who pass it every day. Probably only a few know that the man is Joseph-Marie Jacquard and probably even fewer know what he did to deserve having a statue erected in his honour. Anyone who reads James Essinger's engaging book will become well acquainted with the subject and be in no doubt of his importance. Jacquard, born in Lyons in the 18th century and coming of age in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, invented the Jacquard loom, a machine that not only revolutionised the silk-weaving industry but also, Essinger convincingly argues, initiated a technology that led to today's information age and plots a line from late 18th-century Lyons to the modern world.

In essence, Essinger proposes, a computer is merely a special kind of Jacquard loom. In tracing the evolution of Jacquard's ideas, Essinger travels down some fascinating byways in the history of technology. Inn his story familiar figures, such as the 19th-century computer pioneer Charles Babbage, rub shoulders with less well-known innovators like Herman Hollerith, the crotchety American inventor who founded the company that became IBM.

Occasionally there is a sense that Essinger is trying to cram too much into the pages of his book, but he has written a compelling narrative that links past and present in surprising and illuminating ways. Nick Rennison, Consultant Editor. Popular science author James Essinger claims that one of the most important inventions of the 20th century - the computer - is based on the principle of the Jacquard loom, invented in by Joseph-Marie Jacquard. The Jacquard loom was based in Jacques de Vaucanson's drawloom.

The Chinese created the first drawloom in BC, but the process was extremely slow and required two operators. By the 17th century Lyons, France became the silk-weaving capital and the French weavers were desperate for a better alternative. Vaucanson used metal drums with holes strategically placed to control rods that would control and govern the strings, raising and lowering the warp threads.

However, this early loom was impractical, as it could only produce repeat patterns, limiting the variety of patterns. Jacquard, a struggling weaver from Lyons created its successor, which wove fabric more than 25 times faster than the traditional Chinese drawloom, by using punched cards applied automatically to the warp thread control strings by a mechanism fitted to the top of the loom.

News of the new loom spread to Charles Babbage in London, who applied the same idea and mechanics to his invention - the calculator. What do a 19th century weaver, the daughter of a world-famous poet and an eccentric Victorian inventor have in common? The answer, according to James Essinger, author of a new book entitled Jacquard's Web is that they inspired the birth of the information Age!

In his book, Essinger tells the year story of how the Jacquard punched-card silk loom evolved into the modern computer and traces today's high-tech era directly back to a hand-loom originating in Napoleonic France. Invented in to weave extremely intricate images and patterns into silk brocade, the book sets out to show that the Jacquard loom started a process of technological evolution that has directly resulted in the information age.

Essinger's take on the story is that the Jacquard loom and the computer are essentially doing the same thing: providing a systematic and repeatable way of managing and extremely complex operational process. The book tells the story of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a struggling weaver in Lyons who toiled to invent his loom after returning from fighting in the Revolutionary army; Charles Babbage, the great Victorian scientist and thinker; and the beautiful Ada, Countess of Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter. The twentieth-century continues by looking at the work of Herman Hollerith, the German-American inventor who pioneered a new way of dealing with the unprecedented volume of data generated by the American Census; and Howard Aiken, who built one of the world's very first computers.

Two chapters of the book are devoted to Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, and the contribution IBM made to bringing about the computer from mechanical 'tabulation' machines that were intimately related to the Jacquard loom.

Indeed, as late as , IBM was making more money from mechanical tabulation machines than it was from computers. The story ends with the latest developments in the World Wide Web and the fascinating phenomenon of artificial intelligence. Review of Jacquard's Web. Web really isn't the right word for this fascinating tale of the slow and occasionally painful progress from the punch-card operated Jacquard loom, through Babbage's never-completed computing engines, Hollerith's punch-card adding machines tabulators and finally the first, punch-card driven electro-mechanical computer courtesy of IBM.

There is a bit on more modern stuff, but that's very much a postscript. A web suggests a complex knot of links, but this is both linear and very loosely connected. Even so, James Essinger makes an effective case for the importance of the French loom manufacturer's idea of using punched cards to control the pattern in silk weaving to bringing the concept of a computer to life.

It's tempting to call this a little book, although it's actually quite long this is in part because the pages are small, but also because it's written in a cosy, gentle way. It's a pleasant run through the whole business, but not really a gripping yarn. Strangely, the least interesting part is the section on Babbage and Ada, Countess Lovelace.

This could be in part because that's the most written about already, but it's also because it's a bit of an anti-climax. I'd also got the impression somewhere that Ada had actually written programs for the non-existent machine, where her true contribution seems limited to translating a French paper on Babbage's work into English and adding a series of lengthy notes, which certainly gave some ideas about what might be required to make the engine work, but somehow don't live up to the romantic image.

It also doesn't help the Babbage so singularly turned down her offers to help! This is a borderline three star book - it nearly makes the four, but is just pulled down, in part because the theme itself, however important computers might be to us, doesn't seem gripping, and in part because it does sag a little in the Babbage section. However it is a very readable book and anyone interested in the history of computing, or the development of the industrial world should find it a very worthwhile read.

If you are old enough to remember punched cards, it will bring a small tear of nostalgia to the eyes! Process this: A loom was the first computer. Essinger's lucid microhistory offers ample evidence that little-known inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard pioneered the use of punchcards to automate the silk looms of Napoleonic France, years before Babbage built the Difference Engine.

Jacquard sped up weaving and, the author convincingly asserts, helped introduce the world to a binary sort of thinking. Clew's Reviews. Bruce Sterling divides technology into string and glue, doesn't he? String is older. Information technology was first a child of string some children were lost. Most people who care already know that the Jacquard loom used punch cards to store the amazingly complex patterns of fashionable brocade and damask cloth; Essinger can only stretch that out into a few chapters, mostly related to the economic importance of cloth, because not a lot is known about Jacquard's life and what is mostly comes before his inventing.

The rest of the book is about the currently-more-interesting descent of computing, of which Jacquard's looms were parents twice: once to part of Babbage's machines, d. Quite a lot of this book is devoted to the history of I. Remington Rand is a more suitable example, since it was a powerful maker of typewriters partly from its experience in making sewing-machines, which required speed, precision and enough reliability to run without a dedicated maintenance team.

It's not actually very surprising that clothing should have several times impelled a technological leap. It's a tempting use of capital, since so much money is spent on it at all times, and the standards are high; really good handwork is still better at some things than what machines can do. If the next industrial revolution is 'mass customization', it will probably start in clothes again. I hope so, because it's an offence to aesthetics that so many people have so many clothes that don't really fit.

I wonder if Hollerith's cards were the first time data lived naturally in a database. It's an error-inviting pain to fill out even a two-dimensional table by hand, let alone a deeper one. It's a pity that information never went from cloth back into the machines; I imagine it as long-term storage: punch the cards until the design is right, weave a reference sample, and when the cards wear out unweave the sample through a machine that generates cards from cloth: then save the first weaving from those cards as the new reference. This wouldn't be a good idea, since punching more cards from cards is easy.

I also wonder where Jacquard got the idea for punched cards.

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Or where one Falcon, who built the first but worse punchcard loom got it, if Jacquard got the idea from Falcon. I have a Theory, actually; bobbin-lace patterns. Bobbin-lace was as expensive and slow to make as brocade, and the patterns changed with fashion much faster than one person could make up a suit of lace. Complicated patterns require pinholes punched into stiff card, which give a skilled lacemaker enough direction to make up the pattern.

Middlemen made up many many cards corresponding to small pieces of a fashionable pattern and handed them out to lacemakers as they picked up the finished pieces from the last pattern.

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