Thursday, January 11, 2007

Knitting and general purpose computing:

One of my programming books argues that the oldest programming language is the stylized language that’s used to describe knitting patterns. Knitting patterns have repetitive loops, conditional statements, subroutines and functions with replaceable arguments, the very stuff of computing. You might even argue that a person knitting a pattern acts a lot like a computer executing a program. (Except that the computer acts without any artistry!)

This similarity might explain why there are so many books about knitting. When I’m in knitting stores (as I was today), I’m amazed at all the topics that knitting books cover. There are of course different techniques, like how to knit with ribbon wool. And other technical topics, like how to fix mistakes. But there are books on knitting for pets, knitting vintage socks, knitting mittens, knitting modern or artic lace, knitting for babies, knitting for kids, not to mention the sort of “hip” knitting books put out by the Stitch’n’Bitch Nation.

Just as there’s no end to the ways you can program a general purpose computer, there seems to be no end to the ways you can specialize the knitting process.

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