Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age by James Essinger
Jacquard's Web tells one of the greatest untold stories of science: how Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a master silk-weaver in Napoleonic France, invented a loom that was to spark the beginning of today's information age. The revolutionary Jacquard loom could create beautiful fabrics many times faster than had previously been possible, using a system of punched cards - now rightly viewed as the world's first computer programs - to store instructions for patterns and designs. In this fascinating and engaging tale, James Essinger traces the 200-year evolution of Jacquard's idea from the studios of eighteenth-century French weavers, through the Industrial Revolution, to the information revolution of the twentieth century and to the billions of desktop computers we rely on around the world today.