Jacquard loom

Model of a Jacquard loom (Scale 1:2), unknown maker, England, 1867, (copper, zinc alloy), cardboard, cotton (fibre), ivory, mahogany (wood), wood (unidentified) and wrought iron.
Courtesy the Science Museum London

The history of digital data processing goes back to the 18th century – its invention was driven less by the secular pursuit of knowledge as power than by the seductive power of precious silk textiles. Experiments had been conducted since the 1720s to automate the weaving of highly complex textile patterns by using punched cards as variable “working memory.” The first fully automatic ribbon loom with punch card control was finally introduced in 1805 by the resourceful silk weaver and merchant Joseph-Marie Jacquard. It is regarded as the beginning of programmable computer technology.