Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age

Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age

By: James Essinger (author)Paperback

More than 4 weeks availability


Jacquard's Web is the story of some of the most ingenious inventors the world has ever known, a fascinating account of how a hand-loom invented in Napoleonic France led to the development of the modern information age. James Essinger, a master story-teller, shows through a series of remarkable and meticulously researched historical connections (spanning two centuries and never investigated before) that the Jacquard loom kick-started a process of scientific evolution which would lead directly to the development of the modern computer. The invention of Jacquard's loom in 1804 enabled the master silk-weavers of Lyons to weave fabrics 25 times faster than had previously been possible. The device used punched cards, which stored instructions for weaving whatever pattern or design was required; it proved an outstanding success. These cards can very reasonably be described as the world's first computer programmes. In this engaging and delightful book, James Essinger reveals a plethora of extraordinary links between the nineteenth-century world of weaving and today's computer age: to give just one example, modern computer graphics displays are based on exactly the same principles as those employed in Jacquard's special woven tableaux. Jacquard's Web also introduces some of the most colourful and interesting characters in the history of science and technology: the modest but exceptionally dedicated Jacquard himself, the brilliant but temperamental Victorian polymath Charles Babbage, who dreamt of a cogwheel computer operated using Jacquard cards, and the imaginative and perceptive Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's only legitimate daughter.

Create a review

About Author

James Essinger is a writer with a particluar interest in the history of ideas that have had a practical impact on the modern world. He is currently working on a novel about Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace and on a popular history of the written word.


Acknowledgements ; 1. The engraving that wasn't ; 2. A better mouse-trap ; 3. The son of a master weaver ; 4. The emperor's new clothes ; 5. From weaving to computing ; 6. The difference engine ; 7. The analytical engine ; 8. A question of faith and funding ; 9. The lady who loved the Jacquard loom ; 10. A crisis with the American census ; 11. The first Jacquard looms that wove information ; 12. The birth of IBM ; 13. The Thomas Watson phenomenon ; 14. Howard Aiken dreams of a computer ; 15. IBM and the Harvard Mark 1 ; 16. Weaving at the speed of light ; 17. The future ; Index

Product Details

  • publication date: 29/03/2007
  • ISBN13: 9780192805782
  • Format: Paperback
  • Number Of Pages: 316
  • ID: 9780192805782
  • weight: 241
  • ISBN10: 0192805789

Delivery Information

  • Saver Delivery: Yes
  • 1st Class Delivery: Yes
  • Courier Delivery: Yes
  • Store Delivery: Yes

Prices are for internet purchases only. Prices and availability in WHSmith Stores may vary significantly