Learning to “code” in Bangladesh

Craft+travel+tech

Ed Tech: A Global Exploration

Jacquard loom punchcards. Photo by Momtaz Begum-Hossain. Jacquard loom punchcards in Tangail, Bangladesh. Photo by Momtaz Begum-Hossain

Recently, I wanted to learn more about Jacquard looms and their punchcards that inspired Charles Babbage in the early 19th century when he was conceptualizing computing “engines” and, with Ada Lovelace (see previous blog), how to “program” them.  As Lovelace wrote, “the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves.” Punchcard technology was eventually developed and used in a machine for the first time in the 1890 U.S. census, and became a foundation for IBM’s data-processing technology for the first half of the 20th century. (short video, “Jacquard Loom: Early Computer Programming“)

As I was about to fly to London, I emailed the only person I could think of who might know about looms — my friend Momtaz, who had been an apprentice in the “weaving” episode of a 2010 BBC series…

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