Joseph Marie Jacquard S Loom

Jacquard and his Loom
By Lora Beard

Life of Jacquard: (chronological order)
Joseph Marie Jacquard was born on July 7th 1752 in Lyon, France. He grew up in a family of weavers. At the age of 10 he worked as a drawboy*, the lowest of all weaving positions, for master weavers. When his father passed away Jacquard inherited two looms. He attempted to start a weaving business but it was not profitable. He was forced to become a limeburner*, which was a highly dangerous job. His wife turned to plaiting straw in order to support herself.
In 1794 Jacquard fought in the French Revolution and when he returned home from that he again got a job in a factory. Jacquard spent his spare time working on his improved version of a loom. By 1801 Jacquard had finished his loom and in 1804 he presented his invention in Paris and was granted a paten for his invention. However, shortly (1806) the French government claimed the loom to be public property and gave Jacquard only a small royalty and pension. Joseph Marie Jacquard died in Lyon, France in 1834.

History and Operation of the loom:
The loom’s job is to simplify the work put into weaving. The loom can spit out complicated patterns a lot faster than a person could weave it. It also allowed un-skilled weavers to produce quality work with various designs. Many silk-weavers protested the loom, fearing that it would steal their jobs because there was less labor needed to operate it. However, the loom’s advantages outweighed the protests and by 1812 there were 11,000 Jacquard Looms in use.
The Jacquard Loom was the first mechanical loom. It operated by the holes punched into a pasteboard, which controlled the machine. Multiple rows of holes are punched on each card and the cards that make up the design of the product are strung together in order. Each row on the board corresponded to one row of a certain design in the product.
Jacquard Looms were often only threaded once because even looms that had only a few thousand warp ends* would take several days to re-thread. Following warps were usually tied onto the existing warp end with help of a “knotting robot”, which tied each new thread on individually.
How it relates to computers:
The Jacquard Loom was the first machine to use punch cards in order to control a series of operations. It is considered an important step towards computing. The ability to change the pattern of the loom’s weave by changing cards was a forerunner to the development of computer programming. Jacquard’s loom influenced Charles Babbage’s work. Charles Babbage was the first to start work on a mechanical calculator, which used punch cards to derive results based on the outcome of the previous computations.


*A drawboy sat inside of the loom and moved threads to various places in response to the master weavers instructions.
*Lime was used for making building mortar, which was in high demand due to new cathedrals being built. The limeburners’ job was to heat the chalk up.
*Warp ends are the vertical threads that weave in and out through the horizontal threads.

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