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

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3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  107 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
In Jacquard's Web, James Essinger tells the story of some of the most brilliant inventors the world has ever known, in this fascinating account of how a hand-loom invented in Napoleonic France led to the development of the modern information age.
Essinger, a master story-teller, describes how Joseph-Marie Jacquard's loom enabled the silk-weavers of Lyons to weave fabrics 2
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Hardcover, 302 pages
Published December 1st 2004 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published October 28th 2004)
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W. David
Jun 25, 2013 W. David rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this slim book. It paints a convincing picture of how 5? men (and one very important woman, Lord Byron's daughter!) directly shaped the technology of the early punch-card computer, beginning with the crucial Jacquard loom in France around the turn of the 19th century.
Jesse
Feb 01, 2012 Jesse rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Essinger's book perplexes me. It is both gripping and cringe-inducing. At heart Jacquard's Web is a history of the modern computer. But this heart has some serious pedantry and would-be elegance clotting its arteries. If the preceding metaphor feels lackluster, this book might scrape at your nerves. It reads more like a high school history essay than a non-fiction publication from the hallowed Oxford Press. When Essinger isn't gushing over an early precursor to the iMac , he is repeating his muc ...more
Ron
Jun 26, 2010 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting exploration of an oft-forgotten but important forerunner of today's computers... the Jacquard loom of early 18th-century France. The book traces the loom's beginnings and evolution from then to today, with much discussion of those whose inventions and thinking spun directly from Jacquard's invention, like Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Herman Hollerith, and Howard Aiken.

To keep the book slim, many others were left out, though, like George Boole and Alan Turing, for instance, lending
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So Hakim
Jan 24, 2015 So Hakim rated it liked it
First of all I have to say: this book should have been titled "The Information Loom". Or "The Information Web", or "The Binary Tapestry", or something like that. Joseph-Marie Jacquard is important, but not that important he dwarfed everyone else in page count. Indeed, he was only alive until the fourth chapter. (Being about history the chapters are chronological)

Other than that, though, the book is engaging and well-written. It follows the history of computing by focusing on four men. Jacquard,
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gabrielle
Sep 14, 2008 gabrielle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to gabrielle by: Lainie
Shelves: science, history
My first comment: Good so far, except the author got the definition of warp & weft partially backwards. Which is a pretty big goof for a book about weaving.

Overall, I'm torn between giving this a 2 and a 3. It was interesting, but somehow it was also "easy to put down" - and I didn't want to pick it back up & read more. Once I got a few pages into it, I'd remember "oh right, this is actually interesting" but that just didn't stick with me. There is a lot of very good information in here,
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Mason
Oct 15, 2010 Mason rated it liked it
Who knew that computers came from weaving machines? The old punch cards that programmers in the 1950s had to feed into their massive vacuum-tube computers are a direct descendant of punch cards used to program weaving machines of the 1800s, pioneered by a Frenchman named Jacquard.

This history of computing, starting with Jacquard and then Charles Babbage's Difference Engine and Analytical Engine (an arithmetic machine and a hypothetical mechanical computer, respectively), moving up through IBM an
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Frank
Apr 01, 2012 Frank rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was interesting in parts (Jacquard, Hollerith) and it is good to read some history of technology.
Unfortunately it is not well written or edited; thin on actual technical details; and the further in time from Jacquard the history went, the more laboured the insistence on a connection.
Bailey
Sep 11, 2013 Bailey rated it really liked it
Well-written and easy to follow, I definitely feel smarter after having read this book. Although some parts it seems like the author has taken some romanticized liberties, overall the book is very thorough and I very much enjoyed reading it.
Julia
Jan 16, 2009 Julia rated it really liked it
This was a quick read and a very interesting study on how the Jacquard loom can be linked to modern computers. I would have like more footnotes so that the info felt more like fact than opinion, but I enjoyed it non the less.
Hollis
Nov 18, 2010 Hollis rated it liked it
This was recommended by my weaver friend Shelly. I loved the connection between the weaving and the birth of computers. Although I knew about the broad outlines of the story, the detail was interesting for anyone interested in computers.
Shelley
Feb 07, 2012 Shelley rated it liked it
well, it certainly isn't "The Mechanical Turk"
Cynthia
Jan 16, 2017 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
I read this book because I was applying for a teaching job in which I would be teaching about this time period. This was a great read. I loved the connections between inventions and inventors.
Runningrara
Dec 27, 2015 Runningrara rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Educational, interesting read from an author with a point to prove. Surprisingly accessible introduction to computer science through the medium of weaving.
David
Feb 19, 2015 David rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
Interesting enough, but a little tedious in places. The suggested connection between Jacquard's punched card system for the loom and modern computing was stretched to breaking point.
Scott
Oct 20, 2007 Scott rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-tech
A really good book for people to see connections across technologies. I enjoyed the personal biographies and level of detail in this account.
Malia
Jun 09, 2011 Malia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
As someone who's fascinated by both textiles and technology, this book is right up my alley. A fascinating view of the origins of punchcard technology.
Allison
Feb 07, 2015 Allison is currently reading it
Essinger, James. 2007. Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age. New York: Oxford University Press.
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Hi! My name is James Essinger and I'm a writer of fiction and non-fiction.

In my fiction I have a particular interest in personal relationships, travel, history, information technology and chess.

In my non-fiction I have a particular interest in the history of computing, and in language.

I was born in Leicester in the English Midlands in 1957 and I attended Overdale Junior School in Leicester and als
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More about James Essinger...

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“Most organisations, when they would dream of the exaltations of the present, roll their eyes backward. The International Business Machines Corporation has beheld no past so golden as the present. The face of Providence is shining upon it, and clouds are parted to make way for it. Marching onward as to war, it has skirted the slough of depression and averted the quicksands of false booms. Save for a few lulls that may be described as breathing spells, its growth has been strong and steady. From a report in Fortune magazine, 1940” 0 likes
“Hollerith learned a lesson that all vendors of data processing devices and computers have learned at some point: that the biggest market for information processing systems is usually not the government sector, still less scientific or mathematical laboratories, but the offices of commercial organizations.” 0 likes
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