Basile Bouchon was a French pioneer of automatic pattern selection for weaving.
Bouchon was the son of an organ maker, and worked in the silk industry in Lyon. In 1725 he invented a way to control a weaving loom with a perforated paper tape, partially automating the setting up process of the drawloom in which an operator lifted the warp threads using cords.
This development is considered to be the first industrial application of a semi-automated machine.
In 1728 his assistant Jean-Baptiste Falcon expanded the number of cords that could be handled by arranging the holes in rows and using rectangular cards that were joined together in an endless loop.
This eliminated mistakes in the lifting of threads, but it still needed an extra operator to control it and the first attempt at automation was made by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1745. By 1805 the highly successful Jacquard mechanism was in production.
The above information is condensed from the Wikipedia entry.