Re: 10 Things All Technical Writers Should Do

Subject: Re: 10 Things All Technical Writers Should Do
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 16:19:08 -0500

Ned Bedinger wrote:

Back in the early 1890's there were no software
functions, just people performing tasks.

Somewhere along the line I got the idea that "programming" was grasped and
implemented in the weaving industry in the 19th century. Powered looms
(running on waterwheel or steam power) got their instructions for producing
fabric from cards, anticipating computer-readable paper tape and punch card
media. In other words, the operation of the loom was reduced to operational
instructions, encoded on separate media, and fed into the looms to specify
the steps and parameters to produce the desired output (e.g., which bobbins
to pull thread from, what pattern to weave, how many threads per inch, ...).
I would say that this is difficult to distinguish from software. Luddites
must have had harsher comments.

Yes. The Jacquard is still in use for pattern-woven ribbons, garment
manufacturer's tags (the ones sewn into the collar that have all those
loose threads on the back and the manufacturer's trademark on the
front), and similar applications. The loom card was the inspiration for
Hollerith's invention, the punch card equipment used to tabulate the
1890 US Census. The Hollerith card (or the IBM punch card, as most
people of a certain generation know it) was the same size as the
then-current US currency, in case you were curious how he came up with
that particular size.

Likewise, I think there was a Victorian era "difference engine" that ran on
mechanical principles to perform some basic database f\unctions. Some
guy/gal wearing striped pants and plaid shirt did the operational analysis
and implemented the calculations in hardware (like a mechanical adding
machine, if you've ever seen one of them gathering dust in thrift shop, but

Charles Babbage designed, but never built, a difference engine, under
the patronage of Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace, for whom the Ada
programming language was named. A model based on Babbages drawings was
built for an IBM exhibit in, IIRC, the 1960s.

Someone please confirm? I'm not entirely certain that I haven't backslid
into a Bruce Sterling novel.

Glad to help.



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