- Paperback: 318 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press, U.S.A.; Reprint edition (21 May 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0192805789
- ISBN-13: 978-0192805782
- Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.8 x 12.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 939,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age Paperback – 21 May 2007
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Jacquard's web is a special book that explains more than the connections between loom and computer: it presents a fascinating history of talented and creative people developing and inventing the tools of progress. (Chris Arney, Mathematical Reviews)
From the Author
My book, 'Jacquard's Web,' has been named by 'The Economist' magazine as one of the best five science and technology titles of 2004. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The author is clearly neither a scientist nor an engineer. Several aspects make this clear - firstly there are many paragraphs of text attempting to describe concepts which could have been expressed more clearly and concisely with a diagram or an equation. Secondly, the actual technical details of the machines in question are never properly described. Furthermore he does not appear to understand, nor even use consistently, the word "automatic". Nor understand the difference between data entry and data processing.
My knowledge of Jacquard is very slight, somewhat better of Babbage. But from a career in electronic engineering, from when computers filled rooms, I directly know of several significant technical errors spread across the 2nd half of the book. Also the key contributions of Bletchley Park are skipped over (inexcusable now the principal details are public knowledge) thus a very Americanised account of computing results.
So if you are from a technical background this book will irritate. However if not the strictly non-technical story-telling obviously does appeal, as other reviews indicate.
One aspect is useful for all, there are extensive quoted sections of the writings of the historical figures.
What I liked best about it was the teasingly thought-provoking idea the author raises: that our computer age could have started over 150 years ago in Victorian England...
According to Jacquard's Web, the Victorian scientist Charles Babbage spent a lifetime building and refining metal calculating cogwheel machines or 'engines' as Babbage called them. The working portions of the Engines he built worked perfectly. As Babbage's friend and colleague Ada Lovelace once said, it was the first time in history that 'wheelwork' had been taught 'to think'. But funding ran out and Babbage died never seeing his calculating engines come to fruition.
What I found so incredibly thought-provoking in this book was that in London in 1991 a perfectly working Difference Engine was built from Charles Babbage's plans and drawings. I have seen the Difference Engine in action myself (as the white-gloved engineer cranks the handle, the stacked columns of cogwheels spiral and coalesce beautifully as they perform their mathematical calculations) but I hadn't realised the significance at the time.
According to the author, James Essinger, if Babbage had found the funding to complete his Engines, computers could have come into widespread use in the nineteenth century. Now if that isn't a thought-provoking idea I don't know what is!
Jacquard's weaving loom was the first programmable machine, foreshadowing the modern computer. The author explains the background to it, and shows you how the idea was then developed and became the computer industry that is familiar to many of us.
The only weakness in the book was that the thread was taken too far. The last couple of chapters attempted to draw the line from Jacquard's machine into the Internet era, which was a little tenuous. The build up to the modern programmable computer was very strong, but this last bit let it down.
Despite that, the book was fascinating, and an excellent read. Well recommended.
One of the best things about his book is that it is very easy to read. As well as charting the development of the machine that I am writing this review on at this very moment, you are introduced to (through the author James Essinger) the people who worked so hard to make the computer the amazing machine it is today.
This book will appeal to everyone, regardless of whether you have a direct interest in the subject or not. I read the book having no knowledge of the subject at all and I found it fascinating. Anyone with a passion for beautifully written books will be entertained from cover to cover. A truly enjoyable book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very interesting read for anyone interested in the development of machines in general. I am now studying to see if an earlier invention "the witch" which used a peg... Read morePublished on 4 Dec. 2013 by David G Collins
The first two thirds of this book is well worth reading, and overall, I agree with the above reviews. Read morePublished on 27 Aug. 2007 by Dannydorko
No one could read the first chapter of this book and not finish it. In fact, I've just spent the past two days devouring it from start to finish. Read morePublished on 25 May 2007 by Heli
As a fan of science and technology literature accessible to the layman I found this book absolutely superb. Read morePublished on 27 Nov. 2006 by W. H. Osborne
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