Antique computing – Jacquard Loom

The principle of an external stored program for controlling a device is an important facet of modern computer systems (the other, of course,  being the ability to perform calculations on both input data and results).

Although the Jacquard Loom does not compute, is does feature stored programs in the form of external punched cards. These programs are not tied to a specific machine, and a machine can be supplied with numerous different punched cards, and therefore can weave many different patterns.

The ability to change the pattern of the loom’s weave by simply changing cards was an important conceptual precursor to the development of computer programming. Specifically, Charles Babbage planned to use cards to store programs in his Analytical engine.

Similar in concept to the Jacquard Loom is the Pianola or Player-piano, which uses rolls of paper and a pneumatic system to actuate the hammer mechanism of a modified piano to play music.

1 Comment

  • 1. Matthew Skelton

    John Graham-Cumming is arguing for Britain to build Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

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