In that column, I mentioned that Chris was about to embark on a new project to recreate the mindboggling Antikythera mechanism. As I also noted:
Discovered in a shipwreck dating from the first century BC, the Antikythera mechanism is an ancient analogue computer and orrery used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendrical and astrological purposes. Amazingly, this instrument dates from 250 to 100 BC, but the knowledge of its underlying technology was lost at some point in antiquity, and technological artefacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear again until the development of mechanical astronomical clocks in Europe in the fourteenth century.
Well, I just heard from my chum, Jay Dowling -- a man who spends more time flitting around the Internet searching out nuggets of knowledge and tidbits of trivia than one would think was humanly possible. Jay's communication was short, sharp, sweet, and to the point, with a subject line of "Episode 1" and a body comprising only a link to this video.
Once again, I am awed and impressed by Chris's capriciously cunning and colossally confounding creations. I would love to hang out in his workshop watching him weave his magic, and I cannot wait to be astonished, astounded, dumbfounded, and delighted by his future video offerings in this series. What say you -- are you as impressed as yours truly?
I really think that it's worth supporting Chris's work, so I just signed up to become a Clickspring Patron at the $1 a month level from my PayPal account ( https://www.patreon.com/clickspring )
Quite apart from gaining access to fully dimensioned drawings associated with each project, Patron's also gain the opportunity to win some of Chris's projects at the completion of the build, like his current Byzantine Sundial-Calendar project (I must have mislaid my old one because I can;t find it anywhere LOL)
Sad to relate, thsi does not include Chris's Antikythera Mechanism recreation, but I can't blame him for wanting to hang on to this little beauty.
@sheepdoll - Fascinating! What was it that Gandalf said about "powers deeper than ours", or something like it?
In any discussion of a technology or practise, I'll back the person who's actually done it against the scholar (including myself) who's merely read or speculated about the topic. All sorts of little details reveal themselves in the process. The mediaeval historian whose master's thesis was capable of hurling large stone balls 50 meters told me of many things he'd discovered while building the thing. (It was a traction trebuchet.)
BTW, what is it about kytheras that makes everyone wants mechanisms against them?
@perl_geek: ...how do readers feel about the role of tactile skills in less abstract fields of development?
I personally think it's very important to have "the touch" -- I like to think I have it -- for example, I "feel" how much torque to put on some recalcitrant mechanism before I know this isn;t going to work and I need to try something else -- and with how much "oomph" to use tools ... but I have no idea how you teach this -- I think there's certainly some inate skills coupled with years of practice and experimentation (and failures)
Years ago, I was active in the Horological community. I collected over 50 years of the British Horological Journal. I have a complete watchmaking shop and full wood shop, Not to mention my electronics bench Where I work with the most cutting edge electronics ...
My main life focus is on an amazing 18th century doll that could play a pipe organ. Her brothers could draw pictures and write up to 40 characters (100 less than a tweet.) Slowly I cam replicating a copy of the Jaquet Droz musicianne.
A side effect of this was and remains the distraction of the Antikeythera device. De Solla Price was a regular contributer to the BHI journal. Starting in the late 1940s. Culminating in his famous paper in the 1970s. And the Scientific American Popular Article that made this a household name. And Kicked off the whole Alien Astronaut nonsense.
Later Alan Bromley would show, inconsistencies in Price's research. Michael Wright would be brought in to build the models. I myself considered building a model of the Bromley re-construction in the 1990s. Bromley's Antikethera reconstruction did use clear plates.
Bromley went to the effort to construct his own X-RAY tomograph. It may have lead to his pre-mature demise. (Don't do this at home.) At least while Bromley was visiting the Science Museum archives, Bromley was able to get Babbage's Difference engine built.
Sadly Academia, decided to 'Own' the Antikeythera scholarship. These differences are niether here nor there. The short of it is that Academics tend to embargo information.
While both the difference engine and the Antikeythera device are geared calculating instruments, they are not really computers. At best one could think of them as a sort of steampunk app for gears.
Even with my other distractions, I have managed to collect much information as practically possible on the engineering of the Antikeythera mechanism. The main problem is that we only have probably 40% of the device. We do have some of the instructions (Documentation is important) which allows engineers like Michael Wright to make educated guesses. Which the academics love to disprove (when they can.)
The re-construction in the video, seems to contain a number of these 'disproved' ideas. This is not to say that it would not be a nice peice of art, suitable for the desk of some tyrannical Roman senator. It is not what was constructed sometime between 250BC and 79BC.
I have not checked online recently to see if there have been any new developments in the last year. Dives to the wreck site are difficult. Cousteau did two dives on behalf of the Greek government. There have been more dives recently as underwater drone technology make it more likely the site will be plundered. There is much more to the shipwreck than this simple clockwork device. The glassware alone is astounding. First Century Rome was at the same technology level as the pre industrial (1830s) England an Americas.
A few years back I met the principle players in this side of the story, came to the Silicon Valley for a lecture. That lecture series is on You Tube and a much watch to get the fuller picture. This was a full day of about 8 hours of talks at the Computer History Museum. I got to watch Michael Wright disassemble and re-assemble the device during the lunch hour.
I set out to construct my own solid models, based on the low resolution "public" data. To do this I had to write programs to change the axis of the CT slices, to get a cross section of the wrecked device. It is quite bent, and distorted.
My idea is to 3D print a copy of the device in it's current wrecked state. Engineers tend to overlook a lot of the detail and jump to the schematic of the thing. Gear ratios and such. Gears that mesh in Price's re-construction are not in the neat orders that the schematics seem to show. There is high probability after 110+ years of study that the basic function is understood. Much of what we see however is back projection of our own understanding.
The same can be said for the Babbage's Analytical engine. We back project what we know onto the 1820s. I have sort of followed on in Alan Bromley's interest. (would have liked to have met him.) The same cad program I have used to build up some of the structures from the original design drawings. Tim Robbins used these to build working sections of the analytical out of mechano.
Years ago I started a blog about these three devices. I notice when renewing my website, I have not posted there since 2012. I have the most wonderful steampunk workshop in the world. When I am in there, I seldom have time to write about the things I work on. Or see those of you who are at Designcon this week.
The video is definitely worth watching, but someone should encourage him to put the finished mechanism into a transparent case when it's finished.
Although minds are definitely essential to the creative process, a mechanically-inclined friend has a phrase he uses to praise other technicians; "He has a good pair of hands". As a posessor of ten thumbs, I think I understand what he means, and this fellow certainly fits the bill.
Luckily, in software, fingers only have to hit the right keys, and occasionally serve to verify results, but how do readers feel about the role of tactile skills in less abstract fields of development?