Tam points to Babbage and his mechanical computing machine.

The other day I had one of those moments, you know? One of the ladies at work showed up wearing a lovely paisley printed dress, and remarked, over lunch, that she wondered where the pattern came from.

“Well”, I told her, “The pattern is originally called ‘persian pickles’, and came, unremarkably, from persia.

Paisly itself, on the other hand, is in Scotland, and it’s where most of the worlds supply of Paisley was manufactured, both printed and woven. The folks in Paisley were using looms that operated primarily by hand, but if they missed a pull on one of the hundreds of thousands of weaves, the pattern was ruined in a glaring manner. So a frenchman named Jacquard, in conjunction with a guy named Bouchon, who had developed a loom that worked like a player piano, those guys worked together to develop what came to be called a Jacquard Head. The Jacquard head consisted of a device which could read a punched card that told the loom which threads to lift each time.

The “punched jacquard” became the punch card. The idea of the punched card was to take a bucketload of information and put it in a loop that could be repeated without error for ages.
As an aside, a doofus named Ned Ludd invented the term “Sabotage” by convincing fellow textile workers to throw their wooden shoes (sabots) into the looms and stocking machines. He also invented the term “luddite”. “Luddite” I believe, “sabotage” is of questionable origin.

Anyway- a guy named Hollerith looks at the punch cards and thinks, hey, if these can be used to do a complex task over and over again, then why can’t I use them over and over again to do multiple simple jobs? Like tabulating a census.

So he builds a machine. They have one on display at The Henry Ford in Dearbornistan. He called it a Tabulator, and built them for use by the US Census. And his company, the Computing Tabulating Recording company, adapted the tabulators to do other jobs. IN order to make the processes run smoothly, he developed “Hollerith constants” which any programmer of FORTRAN will remember. The Computing, Tabulating, Recording company eventually became IBM, and up until the time I learned FORTRAN in the late 70’s, you could still find punched cards being used that would be instantly recognized by the operators of Hollerith’s Tabulator.

SO that’s the path from paisly to the personal computer.

My victim audience having long since chewed off a leg and escaped, I was reminiscing to an empty chair and a pile of Target Archer Farms parmesan garlic chips.

Memories, Clarice, are what I have instead of a life.