I enjoy reading and have a Nook ereader which I love, love, love! I also like to search for free crochet books and patterns that are in the public domain. I found this interesting little booklet through Barnes & Noble:
The Merrow System of Crocheting Machinery
Of course I was intrigued! Crochet by a machine? Unheard of! The fact that handwork is the only means to crochet has long been touted as an advantage over knitting. Reading through the booklet, however, has put me at ease. Originally published in 1889 it seems that the "crochet machine" only creates finished edges. The most complicated stitch (and the only crochet stitch, as far as I'm concerned) capable by this machine is the shell stitch.
A neat little tidbit of history, but it's interesting that this type of machine is still being manufactured!
Merrow Crochet Shell Sewing Machine
Even if someone were ever able to invent a machine that could crochet a complete fabric it wouldn't be for me. It's all about the process and the satisfaction when I've completed that project and wove in that last yarn end. Ahhhh, sigh, it's a beautiful thing. Now, if they could ever invent something to help me crochet faster - oh wait . . . it's called caffeine!