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Definition: Jacquard loom

An automated loom that transformed the 19th century textile industry and became the inspiration for future calculating and tabulating machines. Developed by the French silk-weaver, Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834), it used punch cards to control its operation.

Although punch cards were used in earlier looms and music boxes, Jacquard's loom was a vast improvement and allowed complex patterns to be created swiftly. The loom was inspiration to Charles Babbage and, later, to Herman Hollerith who developed the first commercial punch card equipment.

The Jacquard Loom
The binary principle embodied in the punch-card operation of the loom was inspiration for the data processing machines to come. (Image courtesy of The Computer History Museum, www.computerhistory.org)