The relationship between the Jacquard Loom and modern computers is quite fascinating. Though it is quite easy to draw comparisons between modern technology such as word processing software and historical milestones like the printing press, the relationship between the jacquard loom and computers exists beyond the product that either machine creates. It is in the technology that these machines rely on in order to execute their processes that is comparable
It is no coincidence that these systems are similar. Rather, Charles Babbage, the individual responsible for the Analytical Engine and making this leap in computer programming attributes his concept of using punched cards that control a sequence of operations in regards to computing to the similar process of using varying punched cards to produce various patterns on a jacquard loom. Simply, removing a punched card from a jacquard loom and switching it with another would cause the machine to produce a different pattern, just as arranging punched cards in different sequences in a computer would completely alter how information is processed (thus changing the output).
How these cards worked in a jacquard loom is quite simple. Each card represented a design that was created using punched holes and each row of punched holes directly corresponded with a row of the design. As the warp yarn traveled across the loom, it either lowered under the weft yarn as indicated by a punched hole in the card, or passed over the weft yarn as indicated by a gap in the punches. Similarly, Babbage’s “Number Cards” had punched holes that connected to figure wheels that, as the machine advanced, would trigger levers and transfer a corresponding number.
The technology is evidently similar and, though now obsolete, formed the basis for modern computing.