When we interact with computers today, we type into keyboards or press on screens. But the earliest programmers in the 1800s had to use much more rudimentary methods to control their “calculating machines”.

At the time, the British inventor Charles Babbage turned to a technology used in the textile industry – punched cards – to inspire his ground-breaking design for an “analytical engine”.

In the video above, Tilly Blyth of the Science Museum in London explains exactly how the cards would have worked.

This is part of a series for BBC Radio 4 called History of the Future, which uses the fascinating objects in the Science Museum in London to chart how our understanding of ourselves and our technology has changed over time. Listen to the radio programme.

Speaker:  Tilly Blyth - Keeper of Technologies and Engineering, Science Museum, London
Music: Kay Headley
Audio edit: BBC World Service
Camera: Ewa Headley
Motion graphics: Adam Proctor
Edit: Adam Proctor and Ewa Headley
Photo: Rob Brewer/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0