Columbia University Computing History

The Jacquard Loom

Jacquard Loom
Photo:   Frank da Cruz (as seen in the Chinese version of "US Textiles Hang in with High Tech" by Alicia Hills Moore, Fortune China Magazine, August 2001, p.36. Click image to enlarge.

This working Jacquard loom is at the Shelburn Museum near Burlington, Vermont (USA). To the left center on the far side of the loom you can see the light-colored "deck" of punched cards that control the loom. On top is the "card reader". In fact, the deck is a loop; the cards are attached edge to edge and go round and round through the reader, producing a repeating pattern. The intricate fabric designs of the 1800s were highly prized and sometimes -- in an early instance of software piracy -- card decks would be stolen by competing textile mills.

Jacquard loom The Jacquard system was developed in France in 1804-05 by Joseph-Marie Jacquard, improving on the original punched-card design of Jacques de Vaucanson's loom of 1745. The punched cards controlled the actions of the loom, allowing automatic production of intricate woven patterns. The punched-card idea was adopted later by Charles Babbage about 1830 to control his Analytical Engine, and later by Herman Hollerith for tabulating the 1890 USA census. The image at above (of a different loom) is from [69] and shows the punched cards a bit more clearly.

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Frank da Cruz / / Columbia University Computing History / 2001-2003 /
Updated: 29 May 2019