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

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Oxford University Press, 2004 - Science - 302 pages
7 Reviews
In Jacquard's Web, James Essinger tells the story of some of the most brilliant inventors the world has ever known, in this fascinating account of how a hand-loom invented in Napoleonic France led to the development of the modern information age.
Essinger, a master story-teller, describes how Joseph-Marie Jacquard's loom enabled the silk-weavers of Lyons to weave fabrics 25 times faster than had previously been possible. The device used punched cards, which stored instructions for weaving whatever pattern or design was required. These cards can very reasonably be described as the world's first computer programs. Indeed, Essinger shows through a series of remarkable and meticulously researched historical connections--connections never before investigated--that the Jacquard loom kick-started a process of scientific evolution which would lead directly to the development of the modern computer. The book examines a wealth of extraordinary links between the nineteenth-century world of weaving and today's computer age: for example, modern computer graphics displays are based on exactly the same principles as those employed in Jacquard's special woven tableaux. Jacquard's Web also introduces some of the most colorful and interesting characters in the history of science and technology: the modest but exceptionally dedicated Jacquard himself; the brilliant but temperamental Victorian polymath Charles Babbage, who dreamed of a cogwheel computer operated using Jacquard cards; and the imaginative and perceptive Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's only legitimate daughter.
Attractively illustrated and compellingly narrated, Jacquard's Web is an engaging and delightful volume. It is an impressive case of historical detective work, one that will leave the reader mesmerized.

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

User Review  - So Hakim - Goodreads

First of all I have to say: this book should have been titled "The Information Loom". Or "The Information Web". Or "The Binary Tapestry", or something like that. Joseph-Marie Jacquard is important ... Read full review

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

User Review  - W. David - Goodreads

I really enjoyed this slim book. It paints a convincing picture of how 5? men (and one very important woman, Lord Byron's daughter!) directly shaped the technology of the early punch-card computer, beginning with the crucial Jacquard loom in France around the turn of the 19th century. Read full review

About the author (2004)

James Essinger is the author of several books on management, and is a freelance writer and PR consultant. Jacquard's Web is his first book for a wide general readership.

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