Your Computer’s Great-Great-Grandma

Jacquard Loom

1801 saw the patenting of the device above, the Jacquard Loom. Yep, the shiny, bleeping piece of tech you’re reading this website on is a direct descendent of a loom. The Jacquard system was the first ever machine to use cards with holes punched into them:

Each hole in the card corresponds to a “Bolus” hook, which can either be up or down. The hook raises or lowers the harness which carries and guides the warp thread so that the weft will either lay above or below it. The sequence of raised and lowered threads is what creates the pattern. Each hook can be connected via the harness to a number of threads, allowing more than one repeat of a pattern. A loom with a 400 hook head might have 4 threads connected to each hook, giving you a fabric that is 1600 warp ends wide with four repeats of the weave going across.
(Source: Wikipedia)

And here’s some of the cards:

Jacquard Cards

If you’re an old geezer like me, those cards will immediately look familiar. Even if you’re a young pup, maybe you’ve seen old sci-fi films where scientists pore over a computer the size of the house (with maybe 1 kilobyte of memory). There were no monitors back then, the input and output was on punched cards, or, if you were really fancy, punched tape.

See the holes above? In each position, each bit in modern tech talk, there is either a hole or not a hole. Either one or zero. Yep, Monsieur Joseph Marie Jacquard had worked out a way of converting fabric patterns into binary. Two hundred and five years later, binary encoding touches everything around us: our voices and texts fly around us in binary, our emails and porn, our new-fangled TV signals. Every area of our lives is touched in some way by children of Jacquard’s machine

Jacquard invented a way of digitising textile patterns. I wonder what he’d think if he could pop up now and see how we weave our entire world and relationships from a string of holes and no-holes.


Coldplay DRM

Once you’ve handed over your money for a Coldplay CD, the above is what you’re presented with. After you’ve given them your money, mind.

Here’s what you get:

“This CD can’t be burnt onto a CD or hard disc, nor can it be converted to an MP3” and “This CD may not play in DVD players, car stereos, portable players, game players, all PCs and Macintosh PCs.” Best of all, the insert explains that this is all “in order for you to enjoy a high quality music experience.” Now, that’s quality.
(Source: Boing Boing)

Hey, thanks, Chris Martin! I really appreciate you dictating how I can listen to your grand tunes about alienation and the importance of fighting against trade injustices and global inequality.

But justice begins at home, with your own CDs and their draconian DRM. If you do insist on issuing your music on discs so hobbled that they break all the trade descriptions of what a CD is, stick a big warning on the front. Something like:


At least give us the choice.

Record labels, eh? Are they deliberately trying to lose sales and make everyone on the planet hate them? How long before they start slipping razor blades into our shoes?


This news just in from our roving reporter:

From: Matthew Swan
To: Jyoti Mishra
Date: 02-Jan-2006 10:52
Subject: c-old hat-play

i bought that coldplay cd a while ago and when you try to rip it using a pc it BLUESCREENS your computer.

not only does it not conform to cd standards, but it risks you personal data by inappropriately cutting short your windows session. not to mention the damage this could cause to your hard disk! guess it serves us right for trying to copy our legitimately owned, licensed music to out itunes/ipod, so we can actually (shudder the thought) listen to it.

actually, it just serves me right for spending £8 on a load of shite.

if kraftwerk were dead coldplay would be pissing on their graves.

Well point, good made!