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Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age Hardcover – December 1, 2004
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Doron Swade's Difference Engine (2001) recounted the computer's conceptual origin with Charles Babbage, who, as readers discover from Essinger, borrowed from the technology of silk weaving a means of programming his calculating machine. It was the punched card, familiar in computer rooms until the 1960s and which continues a vestigial existence in the punch-card ballot. Its inventor in 1804? Joseph-Marie Jacquard of Lyons, France. Essinger bolsters Jacquard's thin but eventful biography by outlining the subsequent applications of his idea. In addition to clarifying the technical significance of the punched card, Essinger engagingly introduces the personalities-- Babbage, of course, but Lord Byron's daughter, Ada, and IBM chief Thomas Watson, too--whose lives crossed with Jacquard's punched card. Following Babbage's failure, Essinger relates, the punched card was improved on by Herman Hollerith, inventor of automatic tabulating machines, and by Howard Aiken, developer of arguably the first general-purpose computer, the Harvard Mark I in 1944. Essinger's perceptive commentary makes for interesting reading, and his work is a fluid contribution to the history of the computer. Gilbert Taylor
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"With wit and imagination, Essinger has woven a marvelous tapestry celebrating this rugs-to-riches story and the unlikely birth of the information age."--Entertainment Weekly
"Jacquard's Web is more than the biography of a man and his machine. Mr. Essinger moves from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, connecting the loom, step by step, to the Harvard Mark I, the first proper computer, presented to the public in 1944.... Essinger tells his story with passion and with a gracious willingness to help the lay reader grasp the intricacies of technology."--Wall Street Journal
"Essinger does more than weave together science, history, and business: he sheds light on the nature of innovation.... His book deftly shows how even the most surprising breakthroughs are based on the work of others, and need a host of enabling factors to take root. Without the appropriate financial, technological, and cultural factors, no inventor, regardless of passion, can harvest his brilliant machine.... His tale of cultural, economic, and personal factors that enable ideas to become real tools makes this book a welcome addition to the literature of innovation."-- Tom Ehrenfeld, The Boston Globe
"Anyone who enjoyed Tom Standage's book on automata, The Mechanical Turk, will probably enjoy Jacquard's Web."--New Scientist
"An original perspective...the thread that runs through it--the relation of everything that has come since to the principle of the Jacquard loom--quite compelling."--Walter Gratzer, King's College London
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Top customer reviews
It is well written and I am plugging through it. Not a "page Turner" but still very interesting.
Most recent customer reviews
This is one book that would benefit as a Reader's Digest condensed version.Read more