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What Ancient Tech Do You Do?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the before-there-was-digital dept.

Science 308

neonfrog asks: "Before silicon, before electricity even, what the heck did those of us with geek brains do? Our brains have not evolved appreciably in half an eon (at least mine hasn't, but I may be descended from turtles). What would today's programmers have been doing centuries before the invention of the keyboard? What would an electrical engineer be doing a millennia or three before the concept of resistors and capacitors? What piqued their curiosity? Were their skills esoteric or exotic? They can't all have been Leonardo Da Vincis or court 'magicians', right? Summer's starting and, for some, it's hobby time. I bet the Slashdot community harbors quite a few Journeyman, or even Masters. I know a lot of geeks are beer-makers (and I do so appreciate you folk ... urp!) so there's no danger of that knowledge getting lost. What other ancient tech do you indulge in and keep alive? What are some good resources?"

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my hobbies (5, Interesting)

bluelip (123578) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869192)

hunt, homebrew beer/wine, tan animal hides.... you know.... the red-blooded american things.

Make mead. (4, Interesting)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869264)

Amen to this.

I wanted to make my own cider, and despite my love for Cider, my new first love is Mead, and its near cousins, melomels, cysers....mmmmm

My first 1 gallon batch of mead recently hit its stride finally. Dear GAWD is that stuff good.

I swear, if you ever get a good mead, you'll never drink beer again. I'm not kidding, I'm dead serious. I have 5 gallons of strawberry melomel going right now, and another 5 gallons of some dark cider that has been going since mid-october. Both are far superior to their off-the-shelf alternatives, and these are just my first tries!

Resources?

The BrewBoard [brewboard.com]

and if you wish to take my advice on the mead specifically:

The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm [amazon.com]

That second link *is* an Amazon link, but not a referral link, so I'm not whoring.

Oh, and yes, I did spell "compleat" correctly. Took me forever to find the book the first time. Oops.

Re:Make mead. (2, Informative)

Muhammar (659468) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869923)

"I swear, if you ever get a good mead, you'll never drink beer again. I'm not kidding"

Good cool mead taste masks the incredible quantity of sugar that you are actualy drinking. Sugars compete with alcohol for dehydrogenase and overworked alcohol dehydrogenase is the cause of the hungover.

I swear, if you ever get a good mead hungover, you'll never want to drink again.

Re:Make mead. (2, Informative)

rossifer (581396) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870186)

Good cool mead taste masks the incredible quantity of sugar that you are actualy drinking.

Not sure what you mean by "cool mead", but your statements are only true for what I've typically heard called a "sack" or sweet mead, which is much easier to make, but not as delicious as the dry recipies (IMHO). A dry mead is more my style, and has an amazing spectrum of flavors that really do justice to the layman's description, "honey wine".

The citric acid is important to conceal the alcohol flavor in a dry mead, however... I think I'm going to be making some more real soon. This thread has me salivating at the thought...

REgards,
Ross

Re:Make mead. (2, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870452)

Make mead
Funny thing is that a mead recipe if the first thing I ever got from USENET some time around 1990.

I made it in PET bottles: when half the plastic had gone white with craze cracking from the pressure and the bottle had stretched by about one fifth it was time to drink it.

Re:Make mead. (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870511)

There is a recipe out there for never ending "party" mead - you can tap two pints from a demijohn a week, refill with water, honey and occasionally cracked wheat now and then, and it'll go on forever. It's admittedly a bit cloudy, and the strength and flavour varies from week to week, but it's good stuff.

Religion stifles advancement in our species (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869301)


Before silicon, before electricity even, what the heck did those of us with geek brains do? Oh, the geeks have only recently been truly free:
Archimedes, the father of calculus, has his ancient texts bleached and written over with religious mumbo jumbo. Over 1800 years passed before Newton 're-discovered' calculus.
Galileo proclaimed that the earth wasn't the center of it all. Then the Catholic church made him recant (this was the time of the Inquisition which killed a friend of his just a few years before). (it was only in 1992 that the Catholic Church said Galileo wasn't such a bad guy, and that was after 12 years of arguing)
More recently Louis Pasteur, a lifelong rationalist, had his crazy ideas of bacteria and disease poo-poo'd by various religious leaders.

Seeing a trend? Ancient geeks were free to test and invent only so long as the results agreed with the religious diatribe of the day.

Re:Religion stifles advancement in our species (1)

Mahou (873114) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869818)

BS. ancient geeks were free to test and invent only so long as the results agreed with the beliefs of people in power. during those times some 'religious' people happened to be in power. and your blatant anti-christian post should be modded flamebait as you didn't provide any examples from the other religions

Re:Religion stifles advancement in our species (1)

jericho4.0 (565125) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869852)

You are an idiot, considering that your saviour wasn't born for 212 years after Archimedes died.

Re:Religion stifles advancement in our species (1)

Mahou (873114) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869879)

his ancient texts bleached and written over with religious mumbo jumbo

i assumed he was talking about christians writing over archimedes' [slashdot.org] stuff but i could be wrong since i'm such an idiot
/tear

Re:Religion stifles advancement in our species (1)

samjam (256347) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869973)

Are you saying the Christiaity only started with the ministry of Jesus Christ? It is actually a fork of Judaism (claims to be the true prong of the fork) and hence claims to date back to Adam and before the creation.

The birth of Christ is accepted by Christians as the arrival of the long promised Messiah.

But the other guy was right, it is those-in-power that cause the trouble and looking at history one has to wonder of those-christians-in-power during the middle ages were actually Christian at all.

These days the anti-religionists and evolutionists are so fervent it is hard not to call it a "religion" but lets not go there today, this topic was visited enough in recent reationist/evolutionist:school-curriculum discussions on slashdot and the register.

Sam

Re:Religion stifles advancement in our species (4, Insightful)

Monty_Lovering (842499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870366)

Actually you'll find that compared to say, Islam, Christianity was very backward until the renaissance.

The Arabic Islamic world was the most advanced civilisation in the early centuries of the second millennium, whilst the European Christian world was stagnated around the bits of Greek science they could understand.

In addition to developing from the knowledge of the Greeks in such areas as medicine, they developed our modern mathematical characters and the idea of 0. They also developed a law system where Christians and Jews could peacefully co-exist in Islamic countries, albeit as second class citizens.

This was a far cry from the situation in Europe where anyone who was non-Christian in the same period was likely to end up dead. Even being suspected of something like witchcraft (normally an elderly woman with some property but no surviving relatives, funny that, eh?) was a death sentence, unless of course you weighed more than a duck.

Somehow the Muslims in power were more able to tolerate the advance of science than the Christians in power during the same period.

So the original post seems to be fair in its focus on Christianity as a bad example of established power structures fighting progress with dogma.

And it still goes on; eggs, sperm, zygotes, blastoclysts and embryos with less nerve tissue than a per rat are claimed to have equal rights to born humans by the Roman Catholic Church.

Jehovah's Witnesses oppose the transfusion of blood.

Fundamental Christians deny the vast level of supporting evidence for an ancient naturalistically formed Universe where life developed under the control of natural selection, and insist on a literal 7 x 24-hour day creation. ... of course there are Muslims and Hindus capable of equivalent stupidity, plus stuff like Mormons, Scientologists, etc., but Christianity seem to win the contest as 'religion most likely to stifle scientific advancement'.

Look at the lobby groups now most opposed to stem cell research...

Re:Religion stifles advancement in our species (3, Informative)

Stachel (718095) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870481)

"they [Arabic Islam] developed our modern mathematical characters and the idea of 0."

This is actually not true: the concept of zero originates with Hinduism, around the 7th centure BC.:

http://www.udupipages.com/book/hindhu.html [udupipages.com]
http://www.atributetohinduism.com/Advanced_Concept s.htm [atributetohinduism.com]

bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869918)

I guess you're ignoring that it was the monastaries that kept a lot of this information alive after Western Civilization collapsed with the Roman Empire or that many Islamic scholars were studying and advancing mathematics.

Re:bullshit (2, Interesting)

BerntB (584621) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870505)

that many Islamic scholars were studying and advancing mathematics.
Read Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy.

He claims the reason that the Islamic scholars didn't add that much to what they later transferred back to Europe, was that their religion stopped research.

So this is another case that supports the grandparent's point.

i wondered this myself (2, Funny)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869193)

probably just typing on a rock

Life without computers (1)

sycotic (26352) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869197)

well *duh*

we would all have big muscles, neat hair, trendy colourful clothes and a girl at our side whilst rolling in the 'hood

wait, hang on a minute, life without computers???

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!!!

Before the keyboard (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869214)

What would today's programmers have been doing centuries before the invention of the keyboard?

I can't say for sure, but it would probably only require one hand.

Propagate Species (1)

Artie_Effim (700781) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869222)

I don't know about all of you, but I'm keeping busy testing new ways to propagate the species ;)

Intaglio printmaking (4, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869231)

Because art is nifty, and because it's a massive leap to go from tweaking stuff with keyboard and mouse to actually scratching stuff onto a copper surface with an etching needle. Because it's fun squishing stuff under the thousands of pounds of pressure in the printing press. Because there is a bit of a puzzle figuring out how to get proper textures with aquatint, mezzoting, engraving, or drypoint, or stippling.... Nifty stuff, really.

not really ancient (3, Interesting)

Bodhidharma (22913) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869241)

I roast my own coffee beans. Coffee has been around since the Dark ages and known in the West since the Renaissance so it's not really ancient. Besides, everyone roasted coffee until the late 19th century. It didn't come in cans until then. Still, it predates electronics and such. (As far as we know ...)

Jim

Re:not really ancient (1)

dr00g911 (531736) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869685)

I'm another that followed my caffeine addiction to an absurd conclusion.

Over the last few years I've gathered an extremely large collection of super low tech, and a few high tech pieces of coffee roasting and preparation equipment.

I also have a passion for cooking, and I've started learning techniques from all over the world.

My wife is only tolerant of the coffee geekery, but she's utterly devoted to my amateur chef pursuits.

There's also something extremely meditative I find about fishing. Gear, technique, patience. Much like chess -- easy to learn, lifetime to master sort of thing.

I don't seek out low-tech diversions on purpose -- in fact, there are incredibly high tech tools to use in each of these fields. It's just in some of them, the low tech ways are the best ways of accomplishing things -- plus I feel there's more of *me* in the end result, which is a bit more rewarding.

I still do all of my art in Photoshop and Maya, though. Low tech is great for some things (a grill, for instance), but undo is better!

Blacksmithing (4, Interesting)

digitect (217483) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869242)

I was fortunate enough to work at an 18th century living history museum many summers, weekends, and holidays as a blacksmith. Nearly twenty years later, I am still impressed at how much can be done with steel and fire. The technology of tempering is ancient, and the same metalurgical chemistry is used everywhere today in instrument sharpening, oxidization resistiveness, and high strength/weight component design such as in an F1 racecar (when they choose to drive them).

You can set up your own blacksmith shop now for not much more than some fireclay, an old hairdryer blower, some coal fuel, an short piece of railroad track turned upside down for an anvil (always used a forged metal, never cast) and a hammer. Although if I did it these days, I would be more disciplined about wearing hearing protection.

Re:Blacksmithing (3, Informative)

retostamm (91978) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869318)

I got a set of books on "How to build your own Metal Workshop" [lindsaybks.com] from here [lindsaybks.com] .

It looks promising, but I have not started yet (mainly because the landlord does not appreciate foundry equipment in the appartment).

Their catalog is really cool, they have reprints of documents from 1900, 1800 and before, all obsolete by now, of course, but that's how the Golden Gate and the Titanic were built.

They also have an electrical section, for example, how to make an analog amplifier in a Jar from a speaker and a carbon microphone. Really neat stuff, and I wish I could tinker with it some more.

Re:Blacksmithing (4, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869797)

all obsolete by now, of course, but that's how the Golden Gate and the Titanic were built

One of those is perhaps not the greatest example. :)

Re:Blacksmithing (2, Informative)

enigmatichmachine (214829) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869804)

one more for blacksmithing, i took a class at the local community college, and rented all the books at the library, and now have my own forge. its pretty cheap to setup. harbor freight has usable anvils for under 5o bucks, and the forge itself is propane mixed with air tossed into a box made of refractory brick or something similar. carefull, its HOT!!!!

Re:Blacksmithing (3, Informative)

Seraphim_72 (622457) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870117)


Trust me - Harbor Frieght sells a terrible anvil. Wait till you get to use a good one and then you will appreciate the difference. I work pt (for fun) at Arms and Armor [armor.com] I shudder to think of what it would cost to rebuy our forging equipment (especially the stakes) and we have a couple nice anvils and one that looks like we put it under a surface grinder daily - flat smooth - nice. As for doing the Gingery books - I highly recommend trying the casting ones, but as for the rest - it is a lot like 'roll your own linux' very educational, kinda fun, but man alive - your time is also worth something - try Grizzley [grizzley.com] tools.They are still junky tiawan/chinese tools - but they are considered the best of the low/pro-sumer tools. Sorry this was so long - meh.

Sera

Whatever they did... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869254)

...they only had about 30 years to do it.

Same hobby, different tools! (4, Funny)

facelessnumber (613859) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869257)

Well that's easy. I would have been a pirate.

History of the Ancient Geeks (5, Interesting)

TheCamper (827137) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869258)

Many geeks would have probably been monks; it's a structured environment where personality quirks wouldn't be a problem.

Many would perhaps be smiths; blacksmiths, armorsmiths, glassworkers, etc. All types of smithing requires an advanced knowledge of the craft, with nuances more intricate than any xfree86 config file. What makes geeks tick is not sci-fi itself, or computers themselves, it's systems. Geeks love systems. Systems of numbers, systems of logic, computer systems, pen and paper games rules systems, computer language systems. Even non-geeks like systems. Physical Sports are systems; they are self consistent rule-based constructions. Geeks are merely overly obsessed with certain systems, such as the stars, or physics, or computer languages, much like an autistic person could be obsessed with anything, but he chooses a certain something. So perhaps any intricate systematic smithing craft would appeal to the ancient geek.

Re:History of the Ancient Geeks (2, Funny)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869540)

with nuances more intricate than any xfree86 config file

Wow. You have no idea how much you've raised my respect for these things. Cognitive dissonance...what a feeling.

What I would have been... (2, Interesting)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869262)

Probably a failed Leonardo. I've always loved taking things apart, figuring out how they work, then trying to put them back together... and then imagining how to improve them despite my failure to reassemble the original design.

I'd have been the peasant who starved because he was so busy trying to figure out how to get his ox to plow more field when all he had to do to survive was plant a small garden with his hands.

Good thing I'm alive today and didn't live in centuries past.

Re:What I would have been... (1)

teksno (838560) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869412)

speaking of leo...

i still take math classes at the local universities. math is probably one of the greatest languages of all... and in essance, is one of the oldest languages known to man. maybe i should give up it and just become a mathamatician...

I don't know about humans (1)

coyote4til7 (189857) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869266)

But the hero in an Ant's life is certainly a geek.

Then there were the unsung geeks who invented fire, the spear, the flint tip for same, the wheel, the bow and arrow, camoflaged big hole in ground, etc.

More recent-ish, before Henry Ford came along, most auto owners had to be (or hire...) geeks to keep those !@#$! things on the road.

On a slight tangent, one college professor of mine talked about how, in some "primitive" cultures, homosexuals had roles as things like helpers in child rearing. More directly, societies have an interesting way (when dogma and fear don't intrude) and putting aptitudes to some use.

Some thoughts to grease the thunking...

Re:I don't know about humans (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869368)

But the hero in an Ant's life is certainly a geek.

Didn't he end up leaving his wife ant and moving in with her daughter ant?

Re:I don't know about humans (1)

coyote4til7 (189857) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869402)

I think that sequel got vetoed as being marketing-challenged.

Blacksmithing (2, Interesting)

nrlightfoot (607666) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869273)

I always thought that blacksmithing was kind of interesting, and it has some similarities with computer work.

1) swinging a hammer all day can give you a repetetive motion injury like using a keyboard.

2) When making complex things you have to pay attention to details and have an idea of what your working towards.

3) You can undo mistakes fairly easily, just heat it up and pound out the error.

4) There are lots of technical things to remember like metal compostions, metalworking techniques, and different ways to heat treat metals to give them different properties.

5) It's rather a skilled job compared to being a farmer, and I suppose the pay might not have been too bad.

Plus you can make your own swords and armor for D&D.

Re:Blacksmithing (1)

eamonman (567383) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869911)

Well, I guess if I had to become a smithy in the D&D world, appraisers would rate my weapons

-1, Crappy
or
-2, Cardboard

my hobbies (1)

coolguy2k (885942) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869274)

I'm a geek about how i play basketball and skateboard... so i guess that qualifies under this category.

Sailing (2, Insightful)

southern (22565) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869277)

I try to get out sailing after work everyday in the summer. Yes there is a navigation computer on board, but basics haven't change since humans took to the sea.

Gardening... (3, Interesting)

dasunt (249686) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869284)

Yes. Gardening.

Its geeky, in its own way.

Not only do you have layout, planting times, and organic methods, but there are loads of experimentation available.

Do you want to use the French-Intensive method of gardening? How about the traditional method? Blocks or rows?

This year, I'm experimenting with rooting suckers from tomato plants and seeing if the new plants are worthwhile producers. I'm also trying to plant late corn in between flowering beans. (I like to maximize my yeild from a small space.) Next year, I'm going to try interplanting lettuce and tomatoes, hoping that the tomatoes will keep the lettuce cool enough to extend the growing season. I'll also try more mulch next year, I think.

...And Farming (2, Interesting)

breadbot (147896) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869458)

There is no end to the invention you can pour into growing plants and taking care of animals.

Being not very far descended from farmers, I have to say that agriculture of any kind is a great target for creativity. And a couple of centuries ago, a heck of a lot of the world's population was subsistence farming.

You have to plan for the seasons, account for risks (weather, sickness), do more with less effort, take care of your tools and your land, preserve foods, try to maintain nutrition through a long winter. Some of it you can figure out on your own, and some of it you really need to learn from those who have gone before you ...

... But I digress. Farming rewards intelligence and hard work. And it punishes stupidity and sloth with just about the stiffest penalties I can think of -- starvation of not just yourself, but your family as well. Darwin's hand at work, shaping the geeks of today over millenia past.

Re:Gardening... (1)

nimblebrain (683478) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869859)

Seconded!

I'm a gardening geek myself, and I think I'd be doing that if there were no computers around. There are a lot of geekly things you can do with gardening, and I don't think there are many gardeners who are masters of all of them.

There's plant identification (so controversial at the time - identifying by plant's private parts!), propagation, grafting (had an uncle who was big on this, and it can help you grow plants in different climates than they were bred for), growing edible plants, growing specialty plants (orchids, carnivorous plants, cacti), breeding plants, making the perfect lawn, landscaping, watering schemes, collecting odd plants, pruning, composting.

You can totally geek out with any one or two of these specialties.

I like collecting odd plants, growing fruit and growing fragrant plants. We just got some cherry-plum crosses and honeyberries [dnagardens.com] this year (zone 3!), and there are mimosas (touch-sensitive) , papayas and teddy-bear vines indoors. Zone 3's pretty challenging, but I'm impressed at what grows and overwinters here. (e.g. Yucca, of all things!)

Now if I could only figure out how to keep seedlings alive and fungus-gnat-free :)

-- Ritchie

Re:Gardening... (1)

jgrahn (181062) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870550)

Now if I could only figure out how to keep seedlings alive and fungus-gnat-free :)

No organic material in the soil is a solution that works for me. But the only plants I grow from seed are cacti; I suspect most other plants resent the brick-and-gravel treament ;-)

Welding (1)

citmanual (2002) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869289)

Not so ancient, but I have been spending a lot of time with my TIG welder lately. Built an entertainment center out of aluminum and oak ply.

I started by making a welding bench out of steel and have kept doing more and more projects with it.

Brazing! Re:Welding (1)

WarPresident (754535) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869519)

Not so ancient, but I have been spending a lot of time with my TIG welder lately. Built an entertainment center out of aluminum and oak ply.

I wouldn't think you'd get a good weld joint between the aluminum and oak... I've done some CroMoly brazing for a recumbent bike, too cheap for a TIG setup.

During the summer break, I'm building a Greenland Kayak [amazon.com] .

Getting the snot beat out of us by the (1)

XNuke (5231) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869302)

big strong ones since they actually had a competitive advantage then.

The same thing current grads are doing... (3, Funny)

LordEd (840443) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869304)

... would you like fries with that?

--------
+1 sarcastic

food for the animals (2, Insightful)

josepha48 (13953) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869331)

.. probably most geeks would be dead, with our bad eyesight, and all, only a few really smart ones would be saved ..

building garages (2, Interesting)

The Datamangler (850803) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869344)

I'm building my 30x50' garage- except for the slab, I'm framing, roofing, wiring the whole thing myself. I'm what I guess "they" call an experienced DIY'er. My money making background is in remote data collection, so all this stuff I just sort of forge ahead and go for it. I rely heavily on the advice of friends and an amazing brother in law, but in the end, I'm the one that has to redo my mistakes and live with what I build.

I think tinkering with wood would be a great alternative to coding.

For resources, other than people, I get alot of stuff off websites experienced tradespeople put up. I have heavy guilt from never contributing the paypal 5 bucks, though. I know when I eventually get my website up about building plank wooden Dory's, I'll never get a dime as Karmic retribution.

Probably Priests of sorts (1)

retostamm (91978) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869354)

I listened to this set of lectures on the History of Science [teach12.com] and thought that I'd probably be some kind of priest, predicting solar eclipses and calculating best paths for Aequaducts etc.



But thinking about it, I found that I'd probably be way too stupid for it - you can't simulate anything. Pretty amazing what these folks did.

Re:Probably Priests of sorts (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870009)

Perhaps, but then again it's amazing what you can achieve if you feel the pressure to figure something out. It's something I've been experiencing since I left college, personally. It hasn't been particularly hard to figure out most things in IT. My brain has stopped trying to figure out unique, systemic ways to solve problems and instead immediately starts telling me to search google for someone else's answer.

It troubles me.

Not quite ancient, but... (1)

oldosadmin (759103) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869358)

Get your old PC up again @ http://oldos.org/ [oldos.org] :)

Some of us LIKE playing with pre-pentium machines ;)

Printmaking (2, Interesting)

Dibson (723948) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869369)

I've just begun doing some printmaking at home. Doing linocuts [wikipedia.org] and printing them by hand on paper. Just looking up information, I found Escher did this as well [mcescher.com] . Certainly an artistic figure many geek-types have taken to.

It's not difficult or expensive to do (all you need is the linoleum [misterart.com] , some blades [misterart.com] , a brayer and ink), but I find that many traits good coders have apply well to it (like everything, right? Also think design/typography). I find it a satisfying after a day of programming.

Musician (4, Insightful)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869372)

It's not tech, but I bet a lot of geek minds that are attracted to programming languages are also attracted to the languages of music.

Also designing and building musical instruments would be pretty geeky even in the 16th century.

Bee Keeping (2, Interesting)

cpuffer_hammer (31542) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869390)

It is not so different,
Boxes with cards, become supers with frames.
It is in some ways the an early nano-tech with thousands of simple machines carrying out tasks that create something much larger than any of them will understand.
There are even bugs like Varroa Destructor that can make your hive crash.
There is even over clocking, some people build hives with two queens (colonies of bees) in the same box, or would that be multi-processing.
It is a bit like the free software community there is more to be gained by sharing idea with other bee keepers than can ever be gained by keeping ideas to your self.

Well it is fun and you get sweet stuff to share with people.

Sailing (2, Interesting)

magefile (776388) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869393)

Lots of room there for tinkering if you want. Adjust/add/remove/replace pulleys, change how tight the outhaul and other ropes are, sand or otherwise modify your centerboard or daggerboard ... all sortsa fun stuff!

Cave Man Geeks watch grass grow in the summer (1)

xmas2003 (739875) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869398)

Watching-Grass-Grow.Com [watching-grass-grow.com]

accounting and moneylending (2, Interesting)

utopia27 (448035) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869399)

...I've been learning the use (though not the spelling) of abacus and slide rule - true archaotech. Slide rules are likely to go the way of the dodo Real Soon Now (TM). As a math nerd, I'm also learning the theory - I can build one better than I can use one. A computerized emulator (ironic, no?) is available at: http://www.techweb.rfa.org/index.php?option=conten t&task=view&id=86&Itemid=114&limit=1&limitstart=3 [rfa.org]

I've done duty occasionally as an accountant/treasurer for various organizations, as well as property manager/stockist for several businesses. Bean counters have always been in demand.

I've done a fair trade on e-bay selling painted tabletop miniatures (toy soldiers). I'm pretty sure working full time I could have gotten on as an artisan - pottery decoration? illuminator?

Last but not least, I can carry a tune on about four or five woodwinds (sax, flute, recorder, tin whistle, little bit of clarinet). I'm not sure if I could've made it as an itinerant musician (maybe associated with a theater troupe), but it almost certainly would've appealed more than scratch farming.

All taken together, I'd bet on bean counter, though maybe travelling merchant..

Re:accounting and moneylending (1)

cathouse (602815) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870383)

A little over ten years ago, driven by frustration over both my own low level of competance and the terrible quality of every book on * SLIDERULES that I'd been able to find in many years of searching, I speant about three months brute-forcing the rules for using almost all of the scales on the K&E Log-Log Duplex DeciTrig sliderule, which is the standard against which other sliderules are compared.

Generating the rules turned out to be the easy part of the job--*Proving* them was the most difficult work of my life, driving me to tears and black depression on several ocassions. The end result, which easily fits on both sides of two 4x6 file cards, is the simple rules for all of the operations on all of the standard scales, excepting only the Log-Log scales.

If any /. ers would like a copy of these cards, just send the usual stamped, self-addressed envelope to:
Silverhammer
P.O. Box 556
Cazadero, CA 95421-0556

It will be interesting to see how many /. readers are interested in using the old slipstick. A few dozen responses would be a happy suprise, but just to cover my ass I'd better limit it to the first 1000.

Geeks have always been around (4, Interesting)

bursch-X (458146) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869432)

I'm pretty sure many would get into clocks, clockworks, automats and mechanical toys.

There's been a long geek tradition with making automats and mechanical toys, and funny enough the Japanese in the Edo period (1600 onwards) were really good at that stuff, because "inventions" were not allowed in that era. The feudal lords were afraid "inventions" could be used against them, so only fun automats ("karakuri ningyo" etc.) were considered harmless enough, that people were allowed to "invent" if it was for mechanical toys and automats. This started a real boom of the production of ever more amazing geek gadgets.

ancient tech? (1)

FlashBuster3000 (319616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869465)

mh, i use linux

SCA of course (3, Informative)

obeythefist (719316) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869492)

A lot of "geeks" I know are all members of the SCA. SCA arts and sciences encompass a wide range of reasonably geeky activities, including but not limited to brewing beer, smithing armour and weapons, leatherworking, costuming, fighting in armour, archery and so on.

A large amount of effort and detail is put into the crafting of authentic armour and weaponry, and the enthusiasm and energy dedicated to these tasks often exclude the demands of a more normal, healthy lifestyle, thus making these a small part of larger geekdom.

Re:SCA of course (1)

utopia27 (448035) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869498)

ah! not to forget heraldry!

leonardo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869502)

But leonardo da vinci was a faggot. Are there such things as gay geeks?

Engineering and Mathematics (5, Insightful)

dutky (20510) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869508)

Both engineering and mathematics are ancient disciplines, with origins dating back almost as far as written history itself. The ancient Babylonians, Sumerians and Egyptians were aware of mathematics to the extent that they were able to contruct mathematical proofs for the same geometric theorems that we all learned in high school. These same cultures obviously had a superb understanding of engineering in order to be able to build monumental architechture that stood for millenia, all without the benefit algebra or decimal arithmetic (much less, calculus).

There is no reason to think that the sorts of folks that became engineers or mathematicians 5000 years ago were, tempermentally, any differnt from the sorts of folks that become engineers or mathematicians today.

There were, no doubt, other highly skilled and technical professions that would have attracted ancient geeks: other's have mentioned smithing, scribing is another possability (just being literate enough to read and write was analogous to the general level of education of most geeks today), as is accountancy (conducting simple arithmetic without the benefit of decimal numbers must have required great patience and dedication). In the far east, at least since about 200 B.C., there was a good chance that anyone with reasonable education would have become a government functionary under the Confucian civil service system. I also suspect that, in other times, when people's conception of the world was very different from ours, many geeks may have gone into fields that would seem highly esoteric by modern standards: ancient geeks may have become musicians, artists, poets or monks as a means of persuing the life of the mind.

Finally, we should recognize the uncomfortable fact that most ancient geeks probably never got the opportunity to persue any career whatsoever. Throughout most of history, most people, no matter what their personal interests or inate abilities, were destined to be peasant farmers, servants, slaves or other bondsmen, like their fathers and grandfathers and so on. The idea that people, no matter what their station by birth, should be able (or even required) to choose their path in life, is a thoroughly modern concept.

Agriculture is Geeky (1)

shpoffo (114124) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870010)

You would seem to be implying that planting things requires no systemic knowledge of the natural world. Just stick it in the dirt, eh? Agriculture and the esoterics of planting are intensely geeky - and Druids among the more popular-culture ladder-toppers in this area. Agriculture is the root system science of a wide range of other engineering disciplines.

.
-shpoffo

All very true (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870101)

"Classical Education" (based on Greek ideas, reinvented during the reneissance) follows the idea of mixing arts and sciences, and it is from such a system that we let Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton (a concert pianist, alchemist, and inventer of the cat flap), and others.


These people, in Renessance times, were typically sponsored by rich patrons, who took care of the mundane needs whilst they got on with inventing or whatever. It made for a society that evolved culturally and technologically faster than anything that had preceeded it.


Geeks would likely also have been explorers - it is very likely that St. Brenden "The Navigator" (who sailed from Ireland to Newfoundland in about 600 AD in a leather dinghy) was a geek at heart. There was a lot to discover, and required a mind agile at problem-solving along with fantastic patience, as they would be doing a great deal of nothing much.


You find hints of geekdom in gnostic and hellenistic thought and religion, suggesting early geeks may have been heavy into religion. Again, no great surprise - geeks love answering things, and for a long time, those were the best answers anyone could devise.


Cave painters may well have been geeks, too. One set of cave paintings in England would have been a few hundred feet under an ice sheet at the time they were painted. Someone shimmied down an ice crevice for the sole purpose of dawbing animals that couldn't possibly have existed there on the walls. That guy was NOT normal.


Brewers, throughout history, have experimented with different sources of sugars, flavours, etc. Since wild yeast can take many forms, and since many ingredients would have been expensive, they would undoubtably have researched methods of sustaining the active ingredient in much the same way that modern kids brew their own "ginger beer plants" by splitting bottles and topping up with fresh ingredients to keep the yeast alive.


The vertical loom and tablet weaving, both parts of Norse tradition, involved some highly complex thought and engineering on the part of their inventers and practicioners. Even the Viking longships - which would slide up beaches and could then be used to carry cargo from raids by reversing the oars - show considerable evidence of highly creative thought.


I think it safe to say that geeks throughout history have been much as they are today, excpet maybe more influential, as many of the trades I've mentioned have had considerable status and power in their times.

Railroading... (2, Insightful)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869516)

Between my first job and my second job, I spent a summer in a railroad museum in Vermont, where I touched to many rail trades, from painting old cars to firing a steam engine. If ever I was sent 100 years in the past, I'll go working on the railroad...

Chain Mail (1)

obrienb (579428) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869517)

I enjoy brewing my own beer and I also make chain mail. There are lot's of good sites about chain mail. A good place to start is The Ring Lord [theringlord.com] .

Debian (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12869543)

If you want to get a feel for what pre-history was like for ancient geeks, just install and run Debian, the Sanskrit of Linux.

Drafting/Technical Illustration (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869550)


Learn precision drawing on paper with the old tools (T-squares, pencils, compasses - it's techno-Zen) and/or the ability to effectively express a physical thing/abstract concept with a simple hand-drawn sketch. These skills are being lost.

apprentice or clergy (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869578)

If you were lucky, you'd find yourself apprenticed to a craftsman and learning a trade. You might also choose to join the church. Those would be the only categories of "employment" where you might stretch your brain; aside from that, you'd probably become a soldier or a farmer.

Pillars of the Earth (2, Interesting)

hlee (518174) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869602)

Recently read "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follet. Fantastic story, not to mention a wealth of detail on the architecture and building of cathedrals in 12th century England.

If you think you life is tough now, this book will open your eyes on how hard life used to be the past few thousand years.

Architect or Alchemist (1)

rips123 (654488) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869623)

Depending on the period in history, my choices would have to vary.

Before computers were all the rage (child of the 70's) I used to want to be an architect/civil engineer as it involved design and factoring in a compromise between a bunch of disparate systems (electricity, structural integrity, water, waste water, heating, sun/wind exposure, fire resistance, etc).

If I had to jump in the wayback machine, I'd probably take up alchemy or something that involved creating/designing new materials. Anyway, no matter the era there's bound to be jobs that would fulfil geek factor.

Remember though that if lived way back there, very few of us would have the opportunity to learn to read let alone to pursue a career.

no relation (1)

tdmg (881818) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869627)

The three biggest geeks I know are a:

1. pro flash programmer / professional chef

2. mech. engineer / vintage motorcycle repareman / gunsmith

3. elect. engineer / painter / philosopher

Their passions are not related to what they do that's techy, but what they enjoy doing in their spare time. Where-ever smart, motivated, skilled individuals are needed you'll find geeks. I know MIT grads that are butchers, lawyers, etc... It's not technology that makes the geek. It's their intensity, knowledge, and enthusiasm.

I mentioned this before in a post of mine and TheCamper (827137) mentioned this above, but most geeks were probably in the church. All the smartest people joined the church, which would include geeks. It's just that now geeks have returned into the gene pool (sorta), so there's a preponderance of them, and they have just latched onto the feild of technology because it's geared to their skills and an area where major advancements by individuals is common.

Just before computers, geeks were in the feilds of physics and chemistry. These feilds are more challenging, so not all geeks could get involved. Computers and much easier and more widely available, so it's no wonder that their are more computer geeks than any other type of geek.

They struggled to survive, like everybody else. (2, Insightful)

nerdup (523587) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869706)

A hundred or a thousand years ago, large portions of the population didn't have time to sit at their desks and play around with "hobbies". If your entire waking life is spent trying to scrape a living out of semi-fertile ground on one leg because you lost the other one to infection after dropping a rock on your toe, your options for being a geek are limited. SCA fantasies notwithstanding, if you lived in the middle ages it didn't matter how smart or creative you were if you were born to the wrong parents. If you had a brain for math and logic, you would be free to think about such things while digging up weeds, but applying them to any sort of nerdy pursuit was way beyond the means of your average (read: non-noble) person.

It's only in the last hundred or so years that our technology and standard of living has allowed non-wealthy people to fulfil their potential regarding intellectual pursuits. Asking what "nerds" did before there were computers and high technology is like asking what fighter pilots did before there were planes... they worked at normal jobs trying to survive, just like everybody else.

Well, duh... (1)

eurleif (613257) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869766)

We would build a time machine to travel forward in time and give a 100% accurate reply to this Ask Slashdot.

Prospecting/Mining (1)

core plexus (599119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869782)

I search for gold, other metals, and gemstones, as well as fossils and artifacts. I've done quite well at it, in fact. And even though I use modern tools, the basic tools are hundreds of years old: muscle-powered shovel, pick, pan, and sluice. And, of course, the power of observation.

-cp-

The Field Guide to Alaska Rocks and Minerals [alaska-freegold.com]

Strings (1)

opencity (582224) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869810)

I play stringed instruments. The guitar has passed through a well funded techno arms race since the early 50s but is still based on the older technology. The sitar stabilized technologically around 300 years ago.

Some linguist has a theory that music was used to teach counting, counting used to lead while taking aim at dinner with a spear.

Whether music has been improved by technology is OT but if someone wants a rant on that get in touch (Short Answer: yes and no)

Covered in Shit. (1)

jericho4.0 (565125) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869867)

MORTICIAN: Must be a king.
CUSTOMER: Why?
MORTICIAN: He hasn't got shit all over him.

We all would have been what our fathers were.

Buy hotel (1)

dimss (457848) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869937)

I am going to buy small hotel or guest house somewhere in Latgale (east of Latvia). This is more interesting business (I hope) than typing on keyboard all day long.

How to find water the ancient Roman way: (4, Interesting)

crazyphilman (609923) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869941)

Ok, this is from a thousand-year old Roman engineering textbook I perused many years ago.

One of the first things a Roman engineer would do on any building site is locate a spring to supply him with water. In order to do this, the engineer would get up before sunrise and lie down on the top of a hill, facing downhill. As the sun rose, tendrils of mist would appear in certain places on the ground. The engineer would note their location, and he would dig in those spots to produce a water supply.

The reason this works? The mist appears where the water table is closer to the surface. By digging, you go below the water table, and the hole will naturally fill up with water over time. This water can be filtered and used.

Isn't that neat?

Making my own joghurt (2, Interesting)

Muhammar (659468) | more than 9 years ago | (#12869971)

A galon of a good-quality milk + few spoons of good powdered or condenzed milk is heated close to boil (without actualy boiling it), the mix is cooled to amibient temperature, a favorite joghurt (few spoons) is stirred in and the mix is left under lose lid in a warm quiet place without disturbance for several days until ready.

Basicaly it's as simple as making your own kids but less fun.

Lots of stuff (2, Interesting)

wjeff (161644) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870001)

Traditional boat building (in several forms), traditional boat sailing while using non-electronically aided navigation techniques, blacksmithing, leatherwork, sewing and furniture making. These are skills I probably could have made a living with in an earlier age. Probably would have been relatively happy doing it too.

Music (1)

olvr (840066) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870012)

Musical aptitude is often correlated with mathematical skills that require auditory memory, mental problem solving and deductive reasoning. Part of the ability to respond to music, like mathematical aptitude, is expressed in the form of skill at uncovering the (sometimes very subtle) patterns within a piece of music. This ability is influenced by learning - which increases awareness of the patterns - and by mathematical aptitude.

There's also lots of anectodal evidence of famous musicians with mathematical ability and vice versa, but I can't find any rigorous studies. Check out The Psychology of Musical Ability by Shuter.

Taking a speculative evolutionary psychology perspective, I'd wager we evolved our higher-level musical aptitudes because of their usefulness in communicating and understanding complex emotions and social interactions - and a couple of the musical aptitudes just happened to be useful for mathematical reasoning.

Re:Not me (1)

wjeff (161644) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870079)

Good with math, but very musically challenged, it takes quite a few pints of Guinness to make my singing sound good, and then I am still the only who thinks so, of course I also think everybody is my friend at that point, so they would never tell me I how bad I suck

Ancient Tech = Linux (1)

siyavash (677724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870040)

How about this, you all know ancient tech (junk) which is linux. :)

80 BC: The Antikythera celestial navigation device (4, Informative)

obiwan2u (600477) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870059)

What were engineers doing over 2k years ago? How about building the Antikythera Mechanism [giant.net.au] (web copy of a June 1959 Scientific American article, p60-7)

An amazingly complex, intricate, and accurate mechanical astronomical calculation device from 80 BC. Found in a shipwreck in 1900, and not fully reverse engineered until 1973, there are no other examples of this level technology in the ancient world.

"It is hard to exaggerate the singularity of this device, or its importance in forcing a complete re-evaluation of what had been believed about technology in the ancient world. For this box contained some 32 [brass] gears, assembled into a mechanism that accurately reproduced the motion of the sun and the moon against the background of fixed stars, with a differential [gear] giving their relative position and hence the phases of the moon."

You can see a reconstructed version of the Antikythera Mechanism here [grand-illusions.com] . Another article detailing the probable creation date of the device based on the construction of the gears can be found here [nordex.com] "

..it was more sophisticated than anything like it until the Eighteenth Century, nearly two thousand years later!"

Another article [21stcentur...cetech.com] makes the conjecture that ancient navigators could have used the Antikythera Mechanism to determine longitude via the position of the moon (1800 years before longitude calculation was perfected [amazon.com] in England)

Ben in DC

Re:80 BC: The Antikythera celestial navigation dev (1)

Jesrad (716567) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870509)

It is amazing what technology and social progress the Greeks had advanced to in their time, right before the fall of their civilization... Steam power, complex mechanical design, philosophy, democracy, calculus, electricity, atomic theory, and more ! They were due an Industrial Revolution of their own very soon, I think.

math and stuff (1)

PerlDudeXL (456021) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870154)


what the heck did those of us with geek brains do?


math? engineering? inventing things?

someone had to do the needed brainwork at some point in history which made computers, etc. possible.

Mining and Engineering (1)

AndrewHowe (60826) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870207)

That's what I went with, though I hear Herbalism/Skinning is also a good combination ;-)

I'm a research physicist... (1)

thesp (307649) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870230)

...and I spend a LOT of time in the machine shop working metal into precision components for my experiments. While the machines themselves are mostly 1950's, the techniques go way back - for example, lathe turning predates metalworking. And I find it incredibly satisfying!

Same as now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12870337)

I would have some relatively boring day job, and on my copious spare time I would be playing music, sailing my boat, brewing my beer, making things out of wood and leather, reading up on the latest theories of this and that, and so on.

99% of people would be peasants (1)

rpjs (126615) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870347)

What would an electrical engineer be doing a millennia or three before the concept of resistors and capacitors?

S/he would be working in the fields all day long. If they were very lucky, they might be semi-free and would only have to worry about covering the rent whilst actually growing enough to live on. Most of them would be worrying whether their owner would decide that he had a few too many peasants and so decide to sell a few off or use them for sword practice.

Bowmaking and fletching (2, Interesting)

PGillingwater (72739) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870380)

Choosing the right wood, shaping it, fletching the arrows. This is "ancient tech" which can be learned today, and is its own reward. Why, there are even courses in this available!

It's amazing how effective a recurve bow with 40lbs strain is in the right hands....

Metalcasting (2, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870480)

I'm melting Aluminum @ 1400 degrees F (ish) in a steel bucket lined with concrete to make sailing hardware. Oh, and I build my own wooden boats (another exercise in mathematics and logic). Both have been practiced for thousands of years, although I think they cast iron more often than aluminum "back in the day".

ultrarunning (1)

dsb (52083) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870522)

I eventually want to do WS100.
so I do a lot of trail running and soon will do my first Ultra!

That seems ancient?

Advanced Ballistic Physics (1)

fuzzybunny (112938) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870534)

Specifically, I spend my time making little metal masses go really fast and studying trajectories, sonic effects, and impact patterns. If you don't want to call it "potting away at the gun range..."

Aside from that, I enjoy studying basic physio-chemical effects of complex carbohydrate distillates on the human body, and piecing together the hormonal puzzle of the effect of the female of the species in really short skirts on drunken guy^H^H^Hscientists.

Best /. thread in what? 3 years? (1)

Vryl (31994) | more than 9 years ago | (#12870560)

Almost lj like.
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