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Pre-20th Century Gadgetery

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the yay-science dept.

Toys 104

The Byelorussian Hatter writes "Wired, presumably bored to death of Cellphones, Zunes, MairBook Nacs and what-have-you, looks back at the elegant inventions of a less civilized age. 'The Turk was a chess player concealed in a table packed with cogs and gears, contrived to give the appearance of a mighty chess-playing machine. Atop the table, an articulated automaton would be seen to make the moves determined by the master within. One of the 18th and 19th century's many illustrious hoaxes, the Turk is perhaps the greatest gadget that wasn't.'"

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nice list (0, Redundant)

jupiterssj4 (801031) | more than 6 years ago | (#22279888)

nice list, some cool tech there

"Ark of the Covenant"? (3, Funny)

random_amber (957056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22279916)

What the heck is this in a list of the greatest gadgets for? Push a button and out comes God (to melt faces)?

Re:"Ark of the Covenant"? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280004)

Agreed. The list has some very speculative items, like the Mormon Liahona, a kind of magical gold compass that allegedly told the righteous dudes where the bad guys were so that the righteous dudes could kick their butts. (Bush could use one to get Bin Laden.)

Will Mitt Romney's magnetic underwear also make the list someday?
   

Re:"Ark of the Covenant"? (0, Troll)

DustoneGT (969310) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280286)

Maybe you should read the Book of Mormon sometime instead of websites that 'sum it up' for you. The Liahona just told them where to go and gave instruction, none of which involved battle strategy.

Magnetic underwear? I'm wearing the same type of underwear Mitt wears and I don't have a problem with small metallic objects following me around. Are you just mad because the garment center wouldn't sell you a pair?

Re:"Ark of the Covenant"? (1, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280392)

Magnetic underwear? I'm wearing the same type of underwear Mitt wears and I don't have a problem with small metallic objects following me around.

Do you mean that the objects that do follow you around do not distract you? :-)

Maybe you should read the Book of Mormon sometime instead of websites that 'sum it up' for you. The Liahona just told them where to go and gave instruction, none of which involved battle strategy.

Regardless, you gotta admit that some of the BofM is violent. They sneak into a neighboring city wearing the uniform of the city guards and *decapitate* some dude for the crime of "being evil" because "God them them to" (paraphrased). Bin Laden uses the same logic.
       

Re:"Ark of the Covenant"? (0, Offtopic)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281030)

As does Bush. [bbc.co.uk] And Blair too I think, but I can't find a source.

Re:"Ark of the Covenant"? (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281034)

I'm wearing the same type of underwear Mitt wears...
Here we have a truly devoted Mitt Romney follower... he's even raided the fellow's home for undergarments. That's true devotion.

Re:"Ark of the Covenant"? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286604)

he's even raided the fellow's home for undergarments.

It's a business plan.

  1. Collect Mitt's Underpants
  2. Gag
  3. ?
  4. Profit

Re:"Ark of the Covenant"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280432)

1. I am not the parent.
2. Flamebait? The parent might have worded it better but the question does need asking, though perhaps in a more intellectual way.
3. Would you call the modding on the parent Politically Correct or Religiously Correct? Heaven forbid that either should be allowed and if history is a sign then both together are deadly.
4. As another poster has put it the list has an interesting bias, though like the parent he fails to put it in a more astute manner as well, but then when could we be accused of discussing things like a round table discussion attended by professors of institutes of higher learning? Even if several here fit the description. :P
5. Yes, I was too lazy to set this up in a table being as it is just a knee jerk response to the modding anyway. {;P

Re:"Ark of the Covenant"? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22283552)

You definitely missed the "geek-cool" factor. They were saying that the Bible stories about people getting zapped for touching or "steadying" the Ark might be attributed to the Ark containing a capacitor or something like it. The guys holding the wooden poles wouldn't get zapped, but touching the metal (without knowing how to discharge it first) would kill you. That's sneaky-geeky-cool.

Makes you relize (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22279934)

Makes you relize how far man has NOT come. We think ourselves a group of bad asses right now. We have nearly seemless technology in large parts of the world, I can see and hear people literally years away by foot. I can do amazing things from my home... but is any of this really that far from clockmaking? Its all just extensions of simplier ideas. Clockmaking extends from the idea of gears. All eletronics extend from the idea of harnessing eletricity.. when will we enter a phase where we seek new mediums to harness? Instead of becoming masters of electrons, we master all energy and matter. Etc.. so before we think ourselves genius, rememeber that were but a step into the long journey to true tech. mastery.

After all, I still have yet to welcome our matter to energy and back converting overlords...

Re:Makes you relize (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280108)

why don't you just go back to sucking dicks you luddite fag?

Re:Makes you relize (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280178)

The Baghdad Battery is intresting.

Shame mankind didnt put alot more reasearch into it through the ages, because if they had it would save us from alot of the hassles we face today in the iPod, Laptop and Phone generation.

~Dan

Re:Makes you relize (5, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280256)

A while back, I was musing how far we have come. Our ancestors feared the elements, but in my house, they are at my command. I want it colder--it become colder. I want it hotter, it become hotter. I can raise and lower the humidity. I want water to flow, it flows. I want wind, I have wind.

Then I realized that it isn't me doing any of those things. Someone else built my heating and cooling system, and my plumbing, and ventilation. I'm really no better than a caveman--I just found a much nicer cave to move into.

Re:Makes you relize (1)

JustinRLynn (831164) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280664)

The difference is that you could built it yourself given that you had the desire to learn how. Cavemen couldn't build the large caves they lived in, we can.

Re:Makes you relize (3, Insightful)

dajak (662256) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281740)

So true. When in the 19th century the literary fiction of the medieval flat Earth [wikipedia.org] was invented, I imagine this was to be able to illustrate how Enlightenment scholars revolutionized cosmological views without directly confronting the readers with their own ignorance of those cosmological innovations made centuries earlier.

People like to think they individually know substantially more than their ancestors, while in reality they just know different things. Medieval peasants knew how to slaughter a cow: we don't. We know how to operate a microwave: they didn't. Only collectively we clearly know more.

Re:Makes you relize (5, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283102)

Medieval peasants knew how to slaughter a cow: we don't. We know how to operate a microwave: they didn't. Only collectively we clearly know more.

Let's not get all excited by this "royal we" concept. Some of us can slaughter a cow - you need not be a medieval peasant, just someone who grew up or has worked on a farm or ranch.

I think your premise is a bit flawed. Clearly, as a society or race or species (however you choice to enclose large groups of humans) "we" understand and can manipulate much larger bodies of knowledge than say, a medieval priest or even royalty. But on an individual level, this is also true. Lots of folks I know can slaughter a cow, at least pretend to fix a microwave, certainly fix an internal combustion engine, use a complex piece of electronic equipment (and I'm not talking about an iPod), shoot a gun, etc. recall the quotation from St. Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Re:Makes you relize (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 6 years ago | (#22288154)

Die gallantly?

Heinlein was an ass.

Re:Makes you relize (1)

dajak (662256) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293016)

Lots of folks I know can slaughter a cow, at least pretend to fix a microwave, certainly fix an internal combustion engine, use a complex piece of electronic equipment (and I'm not talking about an iPod), shoot a gun, etc.

Surely someone who can shoot a gun doesn't necessarily 'know' more than someone who can shoot a bow. As I understand it guns replaced bows because they require less skill. The replacement of simple tools by complicated machines is usually intended to make tasks less knowledge-intensive. The machine embodies the knowledge its user doesn't have. Calculators don't make people better at arithmetic, etc. Just because you can meaningfully interact with complicated devices doesn't mean you know a lot about them. Even being able to repair them doesn't mean you know a lot about them if they were specifically designed for exchangeability and easy replacement of standard components and then mass produced.

Programmers should intuitively know this: making a foolproof tool is harder than making a professional tool.

Let's not get all excited by this "royal we" concept. Some of us can slaughter a cow - you need not be a medieval peasant, just someone who grew up or has worked on a farm or ranch.

In the middle ages 95% of the population consisted of peasants, and in the absence of a money economy for peasants they didn't bring cows to slaughterhouses but did the work themselves. Today's butcher is a specialist. Today's (European or American) equivalent of the peasant, who lives in an urban environment, cannot slaughter a cow: he has few skills that qualitatively set him apart from that peasant, even though the skills he does have are the skills needed in a more advanced society. Transported back into time, his best bet for making a living is probably his skill in reading and writing, and even that skill would not be good enough to be a decent literatim copier.

The well educated among us are a different story, but intellectual conceits like the flat earth myth are not intended for them.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Well, let's see. I can't set bones and butcher hogs, but this shouldn't be too hard to learn. As a father I am an expert diaper changer. If I understand conning a ship correctly (I am not a native English speaker), I can control sloops and schooners. I am a good hand-to-hand and sword fighter by today's standards, and a decent lancer (I have some experience with traditional ring jousting), but I have no experience with ranged weapons other than bow and air rifle (guns prohibited here and we have no conscription). Except for the dying gallantly part which is definitely the last thing I want to do, I have at least some experience with the other ones as a scientist and owner of a house I regularly modify, but only computer game and outdoor play experience in the case of planning invasions.

Did you learn how to cut carcasses especially to meet Heinlein's standards?

Re:Makes you relize (1)

Peaceful_Patriot (658116) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282768)

Science is built by standing on the shoulders of those who came before you. From banging two rocks together to make tools and fire to modern medicine and our wonderful tech toys. This article made me think of what would have happened if patents and copyright were around back then. What if the wheel or the gear had been patented? This is the great danger of patents on scientific work. They stifle future innovation and force everyone to 'reinvent the wheel' which is a great waste of resources and mind power. Those who patent science stood on the shoulders of those who came before, but their shoulders are off limits to anyone else.

Re:Makes you realise (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280762)

s/relize/realise
s/seemless/seamless
s/Its all/It's all
s/simplier/simpler
s/eletronics/electronics
s/eletricity/electricity
s/mediums/media
s/matter. Etc../matter, etc.
s/rememeber/remember
s/were but a step/we're but a step
Recast cliché

> Makes you relize how far man has NOT come.

Amen, brother.

Re:Makes you relize (1)

Nuroman (588959) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281062)

But we got Playstation 3

Re:Makes you relize (2, Insightful)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281154)

>> All eletronics extend from the idea of harnessing eletricity

Electronics is just the only survivor in a world of many species. The idea of processing information by itself is (indeed) not new. But many machines have been invented in the past that didn't make it. Then electronics is fast, tiny and can be mass produced for almost nothing. That's why this technology survived and information processing with water, gears, relais, and torque amplifiers did not.

The same holds for flying cars. The idea is an old one. And the only solution we have so far is to attach four propellers to it. Which, I think, is a species that is dead to begin with. But you can learn from it.

And you're right about ideas as 'very few good ideas are truly novel'. But having an idea is often not that hard. As is the first proof of concept. Creating something really useful is. Expressing this as 'an extension of simpler ideas' I think is wrong. Because this is the part were all the work is done.

Re:Makes you relize (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281414)

Makes you relize how far man has NOT come. We think ourselves a group of bad asses right now. We have nearly seemless technology in large parts of the world, I can see and hear people literally years away by foot. I can do amazing things from my home... but is any of this really that far from clockmaking?
If you were to take a look at the chronology of clockmaking, you'd find that the answer is yes.

All eletronics extend from the idea of harnessing eletricity.. when will we enter a phase where we seek new mediums to harness? Instead of becoming masters of electrons, we master all energy and matter. Etc.. so before we think ourselves genius, rememeber that were but a step into the long journey to true tech. mastery.
Yes, we're a long way from forming the Q Continuum. How depressing.

Re:Makes you relize (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281922)

I think we have come a long way. I think in the last 100 years we have come an especially long way. What we do need to remember though is even our giants stood on the sholders of giants. We all want to think for some reason the men and women of are time are the first to acomplish anything much beyond rubbing two sticks together but that is hardlay the case.

Eninstein never could have come up with relativity without being able to acruartely measure time. Those "clock makers" from the past gave him that gift; they were in their time inovative. They exploited the phisics of harmonic motion wether knowing implicitly or explictly. The artonomers solved problems of optics. Neither could of those groups could have done their work without the artisan metalergists and glass experts before them.

These things seem trivial to us only because everything in our world uses them. Before they were know each was a giant leap in technology; of no less importance then the Neuclear reactor or the Space shuttle.

Re:Makes you relize (2, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282174)

Obviously there is a long way still to go, but I don't think that means we haven't come far. On the contrary, I was thinking the opposite - how just a hundred years ago, so much of our modern everyday gadgets didn't exist, and would have seemed impossible.

but is any of this really that far from clockmaking? Its all just extensions of simplier ideas. Clockmaking extends from the idea of gears. All eletronics extend from the idea of harnessing eletricity.. when will we enter a phase where we seek new mediums to harness? Instead of becoming masters of electrons, we master all energy and matter.

But what do you mean by "new mediums"? If you say that modern electronics is just like clockmaking, wouldn't in the future someone still say than mastering all energy and matter is still just like clockmaking?

Modern electronics harnesses electricity, and requires understanding of quantum mechanics, both things which are fundamentally different to clockmaking. We have harnessed the nuclear force to some degree (albeit not in a "gadget"). The only force still a mystery to us is gravity. I do not see why everything we know today is just like clockmaking, but a future device that harnesses gravitation would be some fundamental new breakthrough.

Re:Makes you relize (1)

slothman32 (629113) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282682)

Some watches use nuclear decay to "glow" their hands and numbers.
So it could be nuclear energy is in a gadget.

Re:Makes you relize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22282486)

figures I shouldn't of posted in AC.. lol

Re:Makes you relize (1)

Zollui (1230734) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284940)

English: r-e-a-l-i-s-e

American English: r-e-a-l-i-z-e

Note that the letter 'a' is in both.

But Don't Laugh at the Turk (1)

Samarian Hillbilly (201884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287752)

I know a company that sells an embedded handwriting recognition system. They couldn't get the algorithm to work perfectly so what happens when the machine cannot distinguish the handwriting? It sends a bitmap of the page to a factory in India where a group of low-cost workers quickly read the writing and send the answer back to the machine. Cool huh?

No weaponry? (2, Interesting)

slap20 (168152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22279938)

Definitely some cool stuff there. My personal favorite was not on the list, the trebuchet. But then again, creating a machine to hurl ginormous stones and flaming balls of death at people was bound to make some enemies...

-Eric-

Re:No weaponry? (4, Interesting)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280506)

I'm surprised they didn't include the Japanese automaton dolls from the Edo period, the karakuri ningyo. [wikipedia.org]

Re:No weaponry? (3, Interesting)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281168)

>> I'm surprised they didn't include the Japanese automaton dolls from the Edo period

I'm more surprised that the Droz automata are not listed. If 'The Turk is perhaps the greatest gadget that wasn't', then the Droz androids are the gratest gadgets that actually were. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ypKJWXFj48&feature=related [youtube.com]

Re:No weaponry? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281620)

Fascinating, and almost certainly the inspiration for the repair androids in The Girl in the Fireplace. I wonder if Alan Turing was familiar with these designs, since (The Writer, at least) is astonishingly similar to the Turing Machine in terms of design.

Re:No weaponry? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22282982)

Simple because the turk was a lie. Since these reporter people have no hope of ever making a real gadget, a real accomplishment, much less one that's contains purely mechanical robot control, yet lying is easy.

Believing lies is easy. It's what runs democrat policies. It's what lefties do, and obviously slashdotters like this. After all slashdot is founded on the "mob justice", the constant use of force to silence opinions that are (at the moment) considered "deviant".

The dolls you mention were real complex accomplishments. Lots of work that resulted in beauty. You're not going to get that sold to any lefty ...

For an earlier perspective... (3, Interesting)

weeboo0104 (644849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22279946)

Edgar Allan Poe wrote an essay [online-literature.com] about The Turk in 1836 titled "Maelzel's Chess Player". [wikipedia.org]

Call me weird, but... (4, Insightful)

Ai Olor-Wile (997427) | more than 6 years ago | (#22279952)

...haven't we seen our fair share of articles and such things mentioning the Turk and Antikythera mechanism already? I propose that this article wins in the dull department--or perhaps it is merely an unidentified form of blog spam disguised as a popular tech magazine!

Re:Call me weird, but... (4, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280136)

I think it's an interesting concept for an article, but sloppily executed. The Mechanical Turk doesn't really qualify as a "gadget" in the sense of being a portable, high-tech tool. First, it's a fraud, not a device to solve a practical problem, and second it was sufficiently large that you could hide a person inside it, so it wasn't exactly portable. And the Ark of the Covenant? Give me a break. It's not a gadget. It's a box. A decorated box. They also miss some pretty obvious gadgets. The abacus, the slide rule, and the telescope were all high tech, portable pieces of technology.

Re:Call me weird, but... (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280634)

Wasnt it designed for midgets?
So it was reasonably portable.

Re:Call me weird, but... (2, Funny)

bombshelter13 (786671) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280696)

The mechanical turk most certainly solves a practical problem if you need to defraud someone.

Re:Call me weird, but... (1)

stupidflanders (1230894) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281766)

the Ark of the Covenant? Give me a break. It's not a gadget. It's a box. A decorated box.

Actually... The Ark of the Covenant may have been capable of, at the very least, storing electricity. This was a theory tested on Mythbusters http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Battery#Testing_the_theory [wikipedia.org] (I think some Slashdotters might have heard of this show?)

Other people speculate that it acted as a capacitor. Legends say it was capable of levitation and bringing down the walls of Jericho.

Other resources
Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark by Laurence Gardner
http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Secrets-Sacred-Ark-Revelations/dp/B000BB7CY0 [amazon.com]
Some quotations from this book are available here:
http://www.sciforums.com/Ark-of-the-Covenant-t-29599.html [sciforums.com]
Miscellany:
Energy of the Arc of the Covenant:http://www.simonelic.com/kensr/ [simonelic.com]

Re:Call me weird, but... (1)

ill stew dottied ewe (962486) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284106)

While it did not live up to the claims of it's presenters, the Turk was a complex gadget, it allowed a hidden person to precisely manipulate chess pieces, using a lifelike human model.

Re:Call me weird, but... (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286414)

They also miss some pretty obvious gadgets. The abacus, the slide rule, and the telescope were all high tech, portable pieces of technology.


Ah, but you see, there's a difference between them and the ones picked: the ones you list were useful.

less civilized? (2, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22279956)

what era had the most inhuman weapons, the worst of all wars, businesses controlling governments to wage war for resources, the worst dictators with the largest body count and count of maimed for life?

Probably the Middle Ages... (3, Insightful)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | more than 6 years ago | (#22279986)

More specifically, from about 600 AD - 1300 AD. Nasty, nasty stuff. No centralized government, nothing like the Red Cross, no medical treatment worthy of the name, travelers slaughtered for their food, the worst plague in history, untold destruction of knowledge and people... all and all, it's not a time I'd like to visit should I ever get a time machine.

Re:Probably the Middle Ages... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280206)

there was a centralized government, it was called the Roman Catholic Church. Has a bigger body count by a factor of twenty than the Nazis. still with us.

You have a misconception about The Plague. killed two million per year at the most. And you'd have to count all victims in all three outbreaks centuries apart to reach the total of 137 million.

the flu has done worse than that for one year, and has done worse for total victims.

travelers slaughtered for food is better than millions slaughtered for resources?

Re:Probably the Middle Ages... (2, Insightful)

SeekerDarksteel (896422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280306)

You have a misconception about The Plague. killed two million per year at the most. And you'd have to count all victims in all three outbreaks centuries apart to reach the total of 137 million.

2 million a year is kind of a big deal when it comprises THREE TO FOUR PERCENT of the european population at the time. It would be equivalent to almost 22 million people dying in europe per year today.

Re:Probably the Middle Ages... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280570)

You're confusing Europe with "the World," and if you really think the Roman Catholic Church was Europe's Centralized government from the 6th Century to the 13th Century, you should stop reading Slashdot and pick up a fucking history book.

I'm not Christian nor are any of my friends/family, but this Internet Atheist [somethingawful.com] BS is really tiresome - you're more interested in anti-Church propaganda than the truth.

You're absolutely right... (1)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280622)

... about absolute figures. But when the total world population is less than 300 million, 2 million a year is about 2/3 of a percent. I'm not a statistician or stat geek by any stretch of the imagination, but I promise you that percentage-wise, the period to which I refer was far deadlier.

Re:Probably the Middle Ages... (1)

MadUndergrad (950779) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280636)

Two million? Try about 1/3 to 2/3 of the population of Europe in the 14th century outbreak, to say nothing of the other parts of the world.

Re:Probably the Middle Ages... (1)

laejoh (648921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289344)

So true!

I, as a matter of fact, have a time machine at my disposal and use it only to watch television shows I accidently missed. I never travel back in time before the invention of the television.

Re:less civilized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280098)

Earlier half of 20th century?

Re:less civilized? (1)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280160)

what era had the most inhuman weapons, the worst of all wars, businesses controlling governments to wage war for resources, the worst dictators with the largest body count and count of maimed for life?

This is a trick question, isn't it?

Re:less civilized? (1)

riseoftheindividual (1214958) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280234)

What era, so far, has the longest life spans and the most people alive at one time living in relative peace?

Everyone gets so focused sometimes on what's wrong in this day and age that they forget to take a look at what's right. People also have a tendency to judge the world by their own ideals, never mind how unrealistic their ideals are. There has never been an age in known history where war and conflicts for control over resources was not part of the human condition. The free market may not be the most equitable system, but it sure beats an arrow in the side, or having your still beating heart ripped out of your rib cage to satisfy a sun god.

Re:less civilized? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280260)

so what era had the biggest wars for resources? where is this free market of which you speak? it's much better that millions are dying a horrible painful death because God didn't want them to use a condom?

Re:less civilized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280800)

Roman Empire? Persian?

I'm dying to know!

Re:less civilized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22282016)

the sun god thing was most unfortunate. misinterpretation on the part of barbarians mostly. fucked up real good on that one. humans are so primitive but apologies nonetheless. we shall not interfere anymore in any significant way.

Re:less civilized? (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280418)

You're trying to make a point but you're just showing your ignorance of history. I'd go for the 13th century - Genghis Khan's killing off entire civilizations to increase the amount of grazing land for his horses is pretty hard to beat, he'd have entire cities massacred and giant piles of skulls made, and he conquered a huge portion of the civilized world.

Re:less civilized? (1)

chawly (750383) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282556)

I'll see your Genghis Khan and raise you 2 Khymer Rouges and a Pol Pot - ya gotta keep up wit' the times

Re:less civilized? (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280710)

It's a star wars reference! It wasn't meant to be serious.

Re:less civilized? (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280718)

I'd argue the body count over the last 50yrs has been extrodinarily low in per capita terms. Another post alluded to the dark ages as an example. Perhaps the height of WW2/1 reached the same level of inhumanity as everday life in the dark ages but the rest of the century has been relatively peacefull in large parts of the planet.

As for inhuman weapons - Depends on what you mean by inhuman, before the invention of antibotics countless millions of walking war wounded died a slow and horrible death.

Re:less civilized? (1)

Lunzo (1065904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286316)

I'd argue the body count over the last 50yrs has been extrodinarily low in per capita terms.

And I'd say its been extraordinarily high in de-capita terms.

Ba duhm boom tish

Re:less civilized? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22288734)

I must have missed the second French revolution?

Re:less civilized? (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281144)

Less civilized: did not wear digital watches.

Re:less civilized? (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283854)

I think you got that backwards...

Religion, religion... and the iphone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22279966)

Maybe if TFA wasn't written in a religiously fascinated way, I'd care more. The battery that "could have been used to... electrify religious objects with an inspirational tingle-to-the-touch". "The astrolabe was in use from before the age of Christ". Why is the Ark of the Covenant listed in TFA - there are no facts there.

And of course, the word 'iPhone' just had to slip its way in. Give me a break.

Mairbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22280052)

What the fuck is a Mairbook Nacs?

Amazon's Mechanical Turk (4, Informative)

paulthomas (685756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280060)

In case anyone hasn't put two and two together*, Amazon's Mechanical Turk is named in reference to the chess playing Turk from the article. Amazon's FAQ [mturk.com] has more info.

* 5, for large values of two.

Didn't make the list... (4, Funny)

Antarius (542615) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280172)


It didn't make the list, but was vapourware at the time:

Duke Nukem Forever

reminds of vista... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22283250)

"lots of gears and articulate machinery" on top of XP

I've got one! (2, Funny)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280248)

How about that one couple thousand year old computer/clock/astronomical/big gear thing that I read about on slashdot like a year ago. That thing was pretty bad ass lol. Did they ever find out what that thing did? Was it compatible with the Divx codec?

Re:I've got one! (1)

aerthling (796790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280322)

Do you mean the Antikythera Mechanism [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:I've got one! (1)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280854)

Sigh. It's in TFA.

i don't know what journalism is (2, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280424)

but i do know what it is not

and what it is not is an hour spent clicking wikipedia links and writing a 6th grade level report

Stone age nerd (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280556)

I always wonder what it would be like to be a nerd in the Stone Age.

Well... (1)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280654)

...I don't think you could be one. To be a nerd implies that you're willing and able to focus on a non-essential task in the effort of expanding human knowledge or technology. In the Stone Age, you'd be likely to be too busy struggling to survive to have the resources, time, or inclination to do anything non-essential. You'd be berift of any education system, system of organized thinking or development, and you lack basic things like a numbering or writing system. Even if you somehow manage to gain a bit of free time and somehow make an epic discovery, how do you pass that information on, especially if it's something beyond what you could portray beyond dumb show? I'm thankful that I live when I live; I've learned too much about history to hold any romantic notions about it.

Re:Well... (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280792)

I don't know. You could impress your fellow tribesmen with your wits and knowledge, and make them do things for you because of fear or awe. And people could talk back then, so passing knowledge was possible. But you're right, most of your time you would be busy trying to stay alive.

Re:Well... (1)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281080)

Sounds as if you'd be a tribal shaman, then. Makes me wonder if shamen weren't the stone-age form of nerds. They'd be the most likely to have the spare time needed for thought that wasn't immediately productive. You've definitely hit on something.

Re:Well... (5, Insightful)

sticks_us (150624) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281442)

Hunter-gatherers (still present today in various locations around the world, btw) spend approximately 1/3 of their day looking for food--just surviving.

Modern office workers (still present today in various locations around the world) spend approximately 1/3 of their day working so they can pay for their food--just surviving.

Re:Well... (2, Insightful)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284218)

Hunter-gatherers ... spend approximately 1/3 of their day looking for food--just surviving.

Modern office workers ... spend approximately 1/3 of their day working so they can pay for their food--just surviving.

Sources? I'm a "modern office worker", and I know I only spend a few (2 to 2.5) hours a week earning money for food. That's 6.25% of my working hours (assuming a 40-hour week), and just 2.23% of my waking hours (taking a "day" as 16 hours, with eight hours for sleep). Even at minimum wage -- less than a typical office worker can expect to get -- the cost of essential food should only be about 20% (1/5) of waking hours. Also, a lot more emphasis is placed on attributes -- preservation, individual taste preferences, variety -- which are mostly unavailable in those hunter-gatherer societies at any price.

Re:Well... (2, Insightful)

wkitchen (581276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284796)

Apples and oranges. Modern office workers spend 1/3 of their day working so they can enjoy material benefits far beyond what the hunter-gatherers can. Thanks to excess productivity, modern people can do things like write books, create and build machines, teach, learn, and many other things that hunter-gatherer societies just don't have time for. Tell me, what are the hunter-gatherer's children doing while the modern office worker's children are spending 1/3 of their day getting an education (class time + homework)? Hunting and gathering, perhaps?

I'm sure that any who wish to have a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the modern world could accomplish it with far less than a 40 hour work week.

Re:Well... (1)

Random_Goblin (781985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289162)

Hunter-gatherers (still present today in various locations around the world, btw) spend approximately 1/3 of their day looking for food--just surviving.
You have your figures wrong, Hunter Gatherers actually only spend about 1/6 to 1/4 of the day gathering food ( dependent on the environment)

Hunter Gathering is in fact a very efficient lifestyle from a time use perspective, the problem is that is doesn't scale well. We shifted to an agrarian society not because it gave us more free time, but because it enabled us to support larger populations.

In terms of amount of free time / working to survive ; modern office workers actually do very badly, we work about twice long just to have somewhere to live when compared to a medieval peasant... of course the relative standard of living is a different thing altogether, but in terms of hours worked 21 century humans have a raw deal.

Re:Well... (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281988)

make them do things for you because of fear or awe
Right up until they decided you were a which, worlock, some sort of demon, or got to likeing a little too much and figured you'd be a great sacrifice to the gods.

Re:Well... (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281208)

"I've learned too much about history to hold any romantic notions about it."

I think you have your 'ages' mixed up, for example stone henge was built with stone age tech and the people who built it lived in thatched roundhouses, some up to 60' in diameter, they had pens for domesticated animals. Indoor heating and light came from a central fire and the roof had no hole since smoke passed straight thru the thatch.

There is no denying life was brutally uncomfortable (particularly in cold climates like the UK), but stone age man was intellectually no different to modern man. Even Neanderthals were more advanced than the picture you paint and they were a different species. Stone age people simply thought religion and science were the same thing, and a large chunk of humanity still thinks exactly the same way.

Re:Well... (3, Insightful)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281824)

of course there were nerds in the stone age, who do you think invented stone axes, and spears? not to mention bows and arrows and spear throwers. It may not seem impressive now but when some cave nerd tyed some animal guts to a bendy stick and used it to catapult tiny spears at animals, must have seemed like a uber dork to his pointy stick waving friends. And don't think it was a simple case of putting together, some cave nerd probably spent many long hours searching for bendy enough wood and trying to get arrows to fly straight, while the other cave men laughed at him. And imagine how much worse it was for ancient Australian nerds, imagine how much the other aborigines laughed at the guy who after hours of careful carving presented a bent stick as the ultimate hunting weapon?

Prehistory is even categorised by the achievements of nerds, only when some geek decided to find out what happen when you stuck funny looking rocks in a very hot fire did the stone age become the bronze age. Sure being a prehistoric nerd would have been hard work, but rest assured, there were plenty of them, and its thanks to those uber nerds who decided they could represent spoken words using little squiggles on paper that prehistory finally ended.

Re:Well... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282010)

One word: Shaman.

He's the guy who pays attention to things like seasons and weather, and how the moon moves. The guy who has memorised - because there is no writing - the lineages of everyone in the tribe and the history of heroes and deeds. The guy with the lore of plants and herbs, and which kill, and which heal, and which bring visions of the gods.

He's the Stone Age nerd, and he's very powerful because of it. Signs in the sky tell him when the buffalo migration is due, and because of this the hunters bring home great bounty. His authority on matters of history settles disputes over ancestral status within the tribe. And because he is the one who eats of the sacred root and speaks with the gods, not even the chieftain is prepared to gainsay him.

Re:Stone age nerd (1)

deadweight (681827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289634)

You would likely be dead quicky. If you had the good fortune to be part of a tribe or group that was doing well enough to support projects that didn't have instant results then you might be the guy that invented a better spear or figured out a way to predict the changing seasons with a simple star chart. You might have time to research which plants could cure which diseases. You could draw big tits with the ends of burnt sticks and sell porn to other tribes and get rich :)

Huh (2, Funny)

His Shadow (689816) | more than 6 years ago | (#22280694)

One of the 18th and 19th century's many illustrious hoaxes, the Turk is perhaps the greatest gadget that wasn't.

Kinda like Vista.

Re:Huh (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281422)

One of the 18th and 19th century's many illustrious hoaxes, the Turk is perhaps the greatest gadget that wasn't.
 



Kinda like Vista.

Har har. Well, at least it's good to see that SNL's writers are finding time to expand on their art form during the strike.

Re:Huh (1)

Zollui (1230734) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285128)

And Windows 95 and 98, which were touted as completely new operating systems when in fact they ran a graphical shell on top of DOS (with 32-bit DOS extender).

The interesting stuff isn't there (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22281466)

Come on, no mention of any mechanical calculator? No Babbage machines?

Re:The interesting stuff isn't there (2, Informative)

dajak (662256) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282602)

TFA appears to be biased somewhat towards technological dead ends.

One thing that for instance popped up in my mind thinking of a pre-20th century gadget is the early 17th century gearbox of the mechanical fireplace spit fork in a castle near Amsterdam. At that time it was inhabited by a friend of scientist Christiaan Huygens (who invented a number of things involving the principle of transmission, including of course the pendulum clock). I have no idea whether it is unique or just rare for that era, and whether Huygens was personally involved, but I can imagine it was definitely considered an unusually clever piece of technology in those times. Differential transmissions only became a mainstream technology during the industrial revolution in the late 18th century.

The mechanical calculator and the computer are basically a development from location-based calculi that were mainstream in the middle ages but later, in educated circles, replaced by pen reckoning with arabic numerals which is completely different. The historical importance of jeton-based arithmetic to modern computer science is unfortunately underappreciated. On a logical level the operation of a computer is probably more obvious to a medieval clerk who was used to mechanically moving jetons around all day than to the modern computer illiterate person. On the other hand the mechanics of the calculator were obviously much more amazing then than now.

Al-Jazari (3, Informative)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22282690)

For shame that this article does not mention the father of enginering. He made robots, automatons that were highly complex. I wonder why non of his inventions is mentioned. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Jazari [wikipedia.org]

Re:Al-Jazari (1)

Excen (686416) | more than 6 years ago | (#22283442)

He wasnt mentioned because hes a dirty diaper-headed sand monkey and would make the Baby Jeebus-loving readers cry. Duh. Only white, christian Anglo-saxons can invent things, just like only a select few asian heathens can modify them for better use. /Sarcasm people. Its not a troll, merely a perspective on modern journalism

Re:Al-Jazari (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285684)

Because although the items in the list are quite interesting, the list isn't. It's simply a list of items that the author encountered and thought of as interesting enough to put in the list. So enjoy the stories in the list and purge the list itself from memory. Especially the mention of the ark of course, since there is very little evidence that the thing existed in the first place, let alone that it had such special capabilities.

Come to think of it, the vials containing fluid blood of St Januarius in an Italian church were more of a gadget, since they definitely contained interesting chemical compounds (but, as expected, probably not blood).

Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22283608)

That's all well and good but, where's the iTurk?

Missing! The Automaton of Mailardet. (1)

killmofasta (460565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284474)

Although my favrotes, The Linden jar, and the Antikythera comptuer,
( you have to keep in mind, that it is a *wired* article ),

The Turk? Jeez. What about this:

http://www.fi.edu/learn/automaton/ [fi.edu]

"Ecrit par L'Automate de Maillardet."
This translates to "Written by the Automaton of Maillardet."

"A young child whom zeal guides,
Of your favors solicits the price,
And obtains, don't be surprised,
The gift of pleasing you, a child to these wonders."

Sorry, 'The Turk' dosent even rank.

Is this a slow news day? (1)

Igarden2 (916096) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284656)

I know that the super bowl is at hand, possibly explaining the lack of effort obvious in the writing of TFA.
This article is dull and boring. My goodness, I'm surprised the author missed the Golem.
What bunk !
A complete waste of time.

The Turk (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286380)

Nobody's noticed that episode 3 of "Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is called "The Turk" - because some geek builds an AI platform called "The Turk" - the name being based on the same Turk of the article.

John Connor is concerned that this AI could end up being Skynet (he even mentions "the Singularity", first time I've heard that phrase on TV - although he defines it as AIs becoming smart enough to make themselves smarter, which is not the proper definition). The Terminator babe says the geek should be killed - but Sarah doesn't want to kill him, so she just burns down his house and destroys the "Turk."

For the gamers here, his "Turk" is built out of three Xboxes and four Playstation consoles..."Did you know the military uses those?", he asks Sarah.
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