Early Computers

Punch cards for the never-completed Babbage Analytical Engine, and Charles Babbage, the "father of computing," who kept refining his design.

Punch cards for the never-completed Babbage Analytical Engine, and Charles Babbage, the "father of computing," who kept refining his design.

We saw this fascinating article on the New York Times about mechanical computers. Long before the digital age, computers were being used for practical purposes.

We saw this post in the NY Times and it reminded us of something that we saw on our first trip to China: a Jacquard Loom.  Arguably, it might be the first robotic manufacturing line . . . invented in 1801 . . .

While not technically a computer, the Jacquard loom used punch cards that look suspiciously like the Babbage cards (above) and punch cards used in computers back in the mid-20th century.

Punch Cards from Very, Very Old Computers

Punch Cards from Very, Very Old Computers

This is a fascinating loom to watch and we’ve put a few videos as well as pictures below.  To the right is an example of a “program”.  These punched cards controlled the mechanical parts of the loom, as silk was woven together, and made very intricate silk rugs.  Similar to the robots we build today, these cards were pre-written and sent “commands” to the weaver, making beautiful and intricate patterns in the silk rugs.

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