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branweb said 6 months ago:

To see a jacquard loom in action, check out this clip from James Burke's excellent documentary, Connections: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itd-4lMoXgI

The clip doesn't show it, but Burke in the documentary makes the same connection as the article, but in a little more detail. He goes from Jacquard -> Babbage -> Hollering ( who used punchcards for the 1890 census), who founded the company which later became IBM.

Really fascinating to watch Burke pull up existing pieces of the modern world and examine their roots. Most of the time, it reveals that most revolutionary innovation was just a variation/consolidation of existing technologies.

jacquesm said 6 months ago:



Connections used to be one of my favorite columns in Scientific American.

branweb said 6 months ago:

ah oops. Thanks for the correction!

cr0sh said 6 months ago:

Another small tidbit:

IBM standardized a terminal screen size of 80 columns because that was the same width as a standard format IBM punched card.

In theory you could show two cards on one screen (height was 24 or 25 rows, usually) - but I honestly don't know if there was ever any call to show punched card data on a terminal, period...?

stan_rogers said 6 months ago:

In that sense, you could show many more than two cards on the screen at once, since each card is one row of characters. One 80-character line, one card. (There were no more than two holes per column on the card in order to avoid fold/tear lines as much as possible, so punch cards couldn't encode as much data as one might naïvely assume.)

kens said 6 months ago:

To clarify how punch cards worked: most of the characters in BCDIC/EBCDIC had one or two holes per column, but some had three. E.g. $ had three punches 11-8-3. In addition, you could use "column binary", where each column had arbitrary punches to hold 12 bits of data.

Regarding the parent comment, there's no reason you'd display the hole pattern for two cards on an 80x24 display. The point is you'd use 80-column displays so each line represents the contents of a card.

cr0sh said 6 months ago:

Hey - thanks for explaining that to me; I was under a different impression of how it worked, and your explanation has really cleared things up. Now I know a bit more!

macintux said 6 months ago:

In high school (32, 33 years ago) my history teacher created a special class built atop Connections. It conflicted with my schedule so I regrettably couldn’t take it, but several of my friends enjoyed it quite a bit.

yetihehe said 6 months ago:

> The image, including caption and Carquillat’s name, taking credit for the weaving, measures 55 x 34 cm

> using 24,000 Jacquard cards, each of which had over 1000 hole positions

So, 24 megapixels, or about 6000x4000px at about 300dpi, that's a nice resolution, considered magazine photo quality nowadays.

tdeck said 6 months ago:

I'd expect given that this is weaving the effective resolution is significantly lower. Both light and dark threads have to spend some time on top and bottom to hold the fabric together, if I understand correctly.

The PDF "Basics of Jacquard Design in Photoshop" [1] seems to suggest a 6x6 "pixel".

[1]: https://mycourses.aalto.fi/pluginfile.php/153467/mod_folder/...

QuercusMax said 6 months ago:

This is a much-higher-quality version of the actual woven material in question: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/31.124/

AdmiralAsshat said 6 months ago:

A bit disappointing that the article, which devotes seven paragraphs to discussing this image, does not actually display the image in question. Surely there is a public domain photograph of the image itself that would have been suitable to embed into the article?

EDIT: My mistake. It appears to be in the top-left corner.

telesilla said 6 months ago:

It's on the page, in the left hand column at the top.


gdubs said 6 months ago:

Weaving continued to play an integral role in computing with the development of 'rope memory' – the core of the Apollo navigation computer. [1]

1: "Moon Machines: Navigation Computer" https://youtu.be/wD97RSpiZe0?t=1336

peter_d_sherman said 6 months ago:

Here's a detailed visual guide about how the loom worked:


(Sorry, no sound apparently...)

telesilla said 6 months ago:

How can an entire article about Babbage and the Jacquard loom not mention Ada Lovelace even once?

“…We may say most aptly, that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves “ — Ada Lovelace


There is a great collection of her writings here:


ggggtez said 6 months ago:

Because it's not an article about Babbage, it's an article about Jacquard.

I don't say this as an Lovelace hater, but this obsession with feeling like she must be mentioned in EVERY article that touches on early computing or Babbage is misplaced. I'd really like to see programmers, as a collective, get to the point where we can put that effort of wanting to see women represented in computing in a more healthy and constructive way, such as caring about any other female programmer ever.

munificent said 6 months ago:

> such as caring about any other female programmer ever.

We do. On Mondays and Tuesdays, it's Lovelace. Wednesdays and Thursdays is Margaret Hamilton. Grace Hopper gets the remaining days.

tingletech said 6 months ago:

If you work in a library you can't ever forget about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henriette_Avram

Zelphyr said 6 months ago:

I feel like this article is simply intended to demonstrate what the Jacquard loom produced. Leaving out the contributions of Lovelace is no different from leaving out the contributions of Turing. Both were monumentally worthy contributions to programming, but the intent of this article was to focus on one small but important facet of the overall history.

I myself have read many times over the years about the Jacquard loom but never actually saw a product of it. That is fascinating for me and doesn't take away any of my respect for what Ada Lovelace gave us.

adolph said 6 months ago:

Extensively writing about the artifact's connection to modern computing through Babbage without Lovelace is kinda like talking about Wozniak without mentioning Jobs. Each are important in their own right, but together they are more than the sum of their parts.

[Lovelace] also developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities. Her mindset of "poetical science" led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine (as shown in her notes) examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool.


greglindahl said 6 months ago:

What's the connection between Turing and the Jacquard Loom? I googled, and there doesn't seem to be any direct connection.

ggggtez said 6 months ago:

That's actually exactly the point the parent poster is making. Ada Lovelace has no direct relation to the Jacquard Loom. She's only related because she worked with Babbage, and Babbage was mentioned. Both of you are pointing out that Ada/Turing don't need to be mentioned, as it's not an article about general computing, but specifically about the Loom.

greglindahl said 6 months ago:

I'm actually disagreeing with that point, and was doing it by asking a leading question. Turing doesn't appear to have even talked about the Jacquard Loom, while Lovelace did. I consider that to be a direct connection between Lovelace and the loom.

Someone said 6 months ago:

There’s a direct connection between greglindahl and the Jacquard loom, too ((s)he wrote about it), but that’s no reason to mention greglindahl in the article.

Writers writing about these subjects may ignore non-male protagonists, but for subjects like these, one can only try to show that statistically.

cr0sh said 6 months ago:

> greglindahl

Call me uncouth, but I don't know who "greglindahl" is...?

EDIT: Ok - I have an idea now who "greglindahl" is - but I wasn't able to find any reference to writings about the Jacquard loom?

But Lovelace was writing about the Jacquard loom in relation to computation; was greglindahl's writings of the same style - that is, were they in relationship to computation?

If not, then of course there'd be no reason to mention that writer.

But the fact that Lovelace did write about the context of computation in relation to the loom, makes the idea that she could have been mentioned salient.

I'm not arguing that she should have been mentioned, but I can understand how someone could think that might be a worthy addition to the piece.

Someone said 6 months ago:

”but I can understand how someone could think that might be a worthy addition to the piece.”

I can understand that, too, but if, as telesilla did, you write ”How can an entire article about Babbage and the Jacquard loom not mention Ada Lovelace even once?”, I and, I guess, many others, don’t read that as ‘might be a worthy addition’.

And I don’t know greglindahl, either, but their comment that I replied to argued that, a) the article wasn’t about the loom, but about general computing, and b) because of that, and because Lovelace wrote about the jacquard loom, she should have been mentioned the moment Babbage got mentioned. That’s the only place I know where greglindahl writes about the loom.