Tag Archives: Babbage’s difference engine

Jacquard Looms: aa010204

The Science Museum in London, England has some fascinating exhibits, jacquard looms, spinning equipment and other historical weaving & computer technology.

Jacquard Looms

Weaving patterns is an intricate task, but is also repetitive. Joseph Jacquard developed a system of punched cards, where the pattern was ‘programmed’ into the cardboard cards. These controlled the lifting of the sheds and created the patterning. This later led to the development of the modern day computer.

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Jacquard Loom
Science Museum
London, England
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Handspinning Equipment

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Making Roving

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Note the ”weights” that provide the tension for the back beam.

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Flying Shuttle Loom
Shuttles were stacked into a feeder mechanism and changed automatically

Dolly’s Sweater

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Dolly’s Sweater
Sweater knit from Dolly the cloned sheep

Do you remember the great controversy a few years ago, when Dolly, a cloned sheep was engineered? A bioengineered embryo had been implanted into a 6 year old ewe’s womb and Dolly developed as a clone. At 3 years of age, Dolly had much older DNA and it was expected that her life expectancy would be much shorter.The Cystic Fibrosis Trust held a competition to design a sweater using Dolly’s fleece. The fleece was cleaned, processed and spun at the School of Textile Industries in Leeds.

BBC – Dolly Fleeced for Fashion

Yuckles – Dolly the Cloned Sheep
Ok, a silly link here. Watch Dolly get cloned.

Time Magazine

The Cover from March 1997, Time Magazine of Dolly

Dolly
A Picture of Dolly.

Roslin Institute
Dolly’s home.

And now you can clone your pets!

If you are interested in the history of looms and computing technology, a visit to the Science Museum in London, UK is worth it. From Babbage’s Difference engine, atomic clocks, jacquard looms, Cray mainframes and other high-tech artifacts will take you back a step in time.

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Old Computers made with tubes and wires.

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Cray mainframe computer
In use until the early 1990’s,
Though not very clear in the photo – the blue in the centre is a huge mass of wires. Imagine when one of those shorts out!

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Computers and Looms

Weaving Loom Books

Jacquard’s Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age
From the Industrial Age to the Information Age, connecting the loom to thefirst proper computer.
UK: Jacquards Web

The Weaver’s Book: Fundamentals of Handweaving
UK: Fundamentals of Handweaving

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Computers & Looms: aa032599

Did you know that the loom and the computer are related? In 1740 Jacques de Vaucanson designed the first usable automated draw loom. The control system he employed in his design was a metal cylinder with studs, similar to the cylinders used for player pianos.
Later in 1801, Joseph-Marie Jacquard further developed this idea and simplified the automatic loom through a system of perforated cards.

jacquard loom

His father was a weaver, and his invention simplified complex treadling sequences. His Jacquard loom became the precursor to the computer. The holes in the cards controlled which shed rose in a particular pattern sequence – similar to the system of punch cards in early computers.

With the invention of the automated Jacquard loom, came the threat of unemployment. The silk weavers threatened Jacquard with death, and his looms were sold as junk.

In the early 1800’s Charles Babbage invented a steam driven machine to calculate numbers.

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Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine

Science Museum
London England

The idea to use punch cards for information input into his analytical machine (which was his ‘second generation calculating machine after the difference engine) was Babbage’s, being inspired by Jacquard’s loom design. Babbage actually visited the silk weaving studions in Lyon to see the Jacquard looms in action.

Ada Lovelace was a publicizer of Babbage’s ideas and designs about automated computation. IBM was born from the tabulator (sorting information recorded on punched cards) designed by Hollerith to deal with data collected for the 1890 US census. He was an ingenious engineer, but not a good salesman, so in comes Thomas Watson and Charles Flint (a super salesman and an archetypal capitalist) and the birth of IBM in the early 1920’s.
The punch cards were replaced by microprocessors and here we are now, connecting via the Net. Whether we working at our looms, designing our drafts in the latest weaving software or are surfing on the internet, it seems that the two are connected.

Many thanks to Anneliese Recklies for editing and providing additional information regarding this article.
Jacquard’s Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age

More about Computers and Weaving

Mechanical Aids to Computation and the Development of Algorithms
The textile industry was the motivating force for the development of modern day computing or data storage.

Computer: Looking back
J.A.N. Lee’s column in Computer, relates the development of the Jacquard loom to IBM’s mechanical card-processing machines.

Introduction to Programming
Hand weavers, realized the cards possessed a value separate from the machine. The cards contained the pattern for the cloth, instructions for the machine and were the first examples of what we would call a program.

The Jacquard Loom
Although weaving is an intricate and delicate task, it is also repetitive. Joseph Jacquard automated the patterning through his system of punch cards.

Math & Weaving
Jacquard Looms

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