Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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The Jacquard machine is a device fitted to a power loom to facilitate the production of textiles with complex patterns.

It was developed by Joseph-Marie Jacquard for application to looms. The loom was controlled by a number of punched cards laced together into a continuous sequence. Multiple rows of holes were punched on each card, with one complete card corresponding to one row of the design.

It was based on earlier inventions by the Frenchmen Basile Bouchon (1725), Jean-Baptiste Falcon (1728), and Jacques de Vaucanson (1740).

The term "Jacquard" is not specific or limited to any particular loom or other machine, but refers to the added control mechanism that automates the patterning.

See Wikipedia entry for the source of the above and much more information.

Jacquard's machine was not entirely successful, due to the method by which the card was pressed against the needles. Further modifications by Breton in 1815 and Skola in 1819 were needed to achieve reliable operation. Nevertheless by 1812 the Jacquard system had been applied to 11,000 draw-looms in France. It was not adopted in Britain until c.1816[1]

This use of replaceable punched cards to control a sequence of operations is considered an important step in the history of computing hardware. Arguably Basile Bouchon and Jean-Baptiste Falcon should be given more credit as the originators of the system.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology, edited by Lance Day and Ian McNeil, Routledge, 1996