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The Geek Atlas by John Graham-Cumming

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012

The Jacquard Museum, Roubaix, France

gkat_012.pdf50° 40 59.05 N, 3° 11 42.43 E

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The Punched Card

The history of computing can be partially traced to a 19th-century French inventor named Joseph Marie Jacquard, who was interested in improving weaving and ended up being a major influence on the Industrial Revolution. His Jacquard loom was able to produce intricate woven patterns by reading a string of punched cards containing the pattern to be created, mechanizing a previously labor-intensive task.

The punched cards controlled which threads fell over or under each other, thus creating a pattern in the woven cloth. Prior to Jacquard’s automation of the loom, only simple patterns were possible because the positioning of threads was done by hand, or was at best partially automated.

A Jacquard loom was able—and still is, since the technology is alive today, with computers having replaced the cards—to produce an intricate pattern and repeat it by reading punched cards in a loop (see Figure 12-1).

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Figure 12-1. Punched cards feeding into a Jacquard loom; courtesy of Justin Cormack

The place to see Jacquard’s technology in action is the Jacquard Museum in Roubaix, France. The museum has a collection ...

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