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Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age

Biography / Memoir

By: James Essinger

256 pages, 10 col illus, 40 b/w illus

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Mar 2007 | #162424 | ISBN-13: 9780192805782
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £8.99 $11/€10 approx
Hardback | Oct 2004 | #162423 | ISBN: 0192805770
Out of Print Details

About this book

Jacquard's Web is the fascinating story of how Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented a loom that was to spark the beginning of today s information age.

The astonishing new loom, invented in 1804, enabled the master weavers of Lyons to create their beautiful silk fabrics 25 times faster than had ever been possible before. This device used revolutionary punched cards to store instructions for weaving the required pattern or design. The loom proved an outstanding success, and these cards are now rightly viewed as the world s first computer programs.

In this previously untold story, James Essinger brings to light a series of historical links that reveal the extraordinary relationship between the nineteenth-century world of weaving and today's computer age. Along the way, he introduces a cast of colourful, passionate and often eccentric characters. These include two of the most intriguing people in the history of science and technology: Charles Babbage, the great Victorian scientist and thinker, and the beautiful and witty Countess of Lovelace, Lord Byron s daughter, who played a crucial role in developing Babbage s work. The book also tells the stories of the other pioneers who helped transform the technology of the punched-card loom into the modern computer. People such as Herman Hollerith, the brilliant German-American inventor; Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM; and Howard Aiken, who built one of the world s very first computers. James Essinger 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.

Jacquard's web is a special book that explains more than the connection's between loom and computer: it presents a fascintaing history of talented and creative people developing and inventing the tools of progress. Chris Arney, Mathematical Reviews


Acknowledgements; 1. The engraving that wasn't; 2. A better mouse-trap; 3. The son of a master weaver; 4. The emperor's new clothes; 5. From weaving to computing; 6. The difference engine; 7. The analytical engine; 8. A question of faith and funding; 9. The lady who loved the Jacquard loom; 10. A crisis with the American census; 11. The first Jacquard looms that wove information; 12. The birth of IBM; 13. The Thomas Watson phenomenon; 14. Howard Aiken dreams of a computer; 15. IBM and the Harvard Mark 1; 16. Weaving at the speed of light; 17. The future; Index

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