(Roughly) Daily

“We may say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves”*…

Lee Wilkins on the interconnected development of digital and textile technology…

I’ve always been fascinated with the co-evolution of computation and textiles. Some of the first industrialized machines produced elaborate textiles on a mass scale, the most famous example of which is the jacquard loom. It used punch cards to create complex designs programmatically, similar to the computer punch cards that were used until the 1970s. But craft work and computation have many parallel processes. The process of pulling wires is similar to the way yarn is made, and silkscreening is common in both fabric and printed circuit board production. Another of my favorite examples is rubylith, a light-blocking film used to prepare silkscreens for fabric printing and to imprint designs on integrated circuits.

Of course, textiles and computation have diverged on their evolutionary paths, but I love finding the places where they do converge – or inventing them myself. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a gigantic Tajima digital embroidery machine [see above]. This room-sized machine, affectionately referred to as The Spider Queen by the technician, loudly sews hundreds of stitches per minute – something that would take me months to make by hand. I’m using it to make large soft speaker coils by laying conductive fibers on a thick woven substrate. I’m trying to recreate functional coils – for use as radios, speakers, inductive power, and motors – in textile form. Given the shared history, I can imagine a parallel universe where embroidery is considered high-tech and computers a crafty hobby…

Notes, in @the_prepared.

Ada Lovelace, programmer of the Analytical Engine, which was designed and built by her partner Charles Babbage


As we investigate intertwining, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that Frederick Banting and Charles Best announced their discovery of insulin the prior year (with James Collip). The co-inventors sold the insulin patent to the University of Toronto for a mere $1. They wanted everyone who needed their medication to be able to afford it.

Today, Banting and his colleagues would be spinning in their graves: their drug, one on which many of the 30 million Americans with diabetes rely, has become the poster child for pharmaceutical price gouging.

The cost of the four most popular types of insulin has tripled over the past decade, and the out-of-pocket prescription costs patients now face have doubled. By 2016, the average price per month rose to $450 — and costs continue to rise, so much so that as many as one in four people with diabetes are now skimping on or skipping lifesaving doses

Best (left) and Bantling with with one of the diabetic dogs used in their experiments with insulin


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