Jacquard, Joseph Marie (1752 - 1834)
Weaver and inventor, Jacquard developed and used punch cards to manage loom operation. He was born on 7 July 1752 in Lyon, France.
His father was a weaver at a silk mill, and, at the age of 8 years, he began to work as his assistant and specialized in silk weaving.
It took four men to operate the loom controls to obtain just a simple weave. One of the major problems with the looms at that time was joining broken threads. As he grew up, Jacquard designed a system that would be able to weave at high speed without errors. He invented ever increasingly sophisticated machines.
In 1799, his great reputation as an inventor led Napoleon Bonaparte to give him employment at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts as a master inventor.
In 1801, Jacquard made a fundamental contribution to the machine programming process by modifying textile machinery invented by Vaucanson. He implemented a system of punched metal cards, joined by belts. This way, the fabric stitches could be programmed to produce different patterns and figures.
After attending an industrial exhibition held in Lyon in 1805, Napoleon distinguished Jacquard with the Cross of the Legion of Honour and a royalty of 50 francs per loom that was sold during a six-year period.
This punch card-controlled loom made three out of the four workers needed to operate each machine redundant, which spread the fear of job losses among textile workers. The inventor began to receive threats from his colleagues, and his popularity began to fall. He ended his days working as a local councillor.
As of Jacquard’s invention, punched card programmed machines and equipment, such as mechanical pianos (pianolas) and mechanical toys, began to proliferate and became very fashionable.
The same punch card principle was later used to store information from computer operations until the late 1970s.
Jacquard died on 7 August 1834 in Oullind, France.