Technical Marvels – Communications of the ACM

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2024-05-14 00:30:05

This series presents selected technical marvels from the fields of computing technology, mathematics, astronomy, surveying, time measurement, looms and automatons (automaton figures, chess-playing machines, musical automatons, automaton writers, drawing automatons, automaton clocks, picture clocks, globes, historical robots). The examples are largely from the 15th to 20th centuries and do not claim to be exhaustive. In particular, artifacts are included for which high-quality illustrations are available. Most of the objects come from Europe, with a few from Africa, America, Asia, and Australia. The order is predominantly chronological. Famous names such as Archimedes, Hipparchus, Heron of Alexandria, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, John Napier, Jost Bürgi, Blaise Pascal, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Charles Babbage are associated with these works. In some cases, however, the inventors are unknown (e.g., abacus, Antikythera Mechanism, yupana). This also applies to the quipu (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Knotted cords. In South America and Asia, knotted cords were an aid for the storage of numbers. Groups of thinner cords with different colors, which can also have subordinate cords, are fastened to the main horizontally running cord. The knots represent numerical values according to their arrangement. The knotted cord (quipu) of the Incas even made use of the number zero. Credit: Heinz-Nixdorf Museumsforum, Paderborn

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