Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Programming heroes

Hero - a word or title that conjures up different things for different people. The war hero; the unassuming suburban type; the person who goes beyond that duty which calls to save a life, or a country, or an endangered species or an ideal. Some get huge public recognition and medals whilst others only the quiet satisfaction of knowing they made a difference that mattered. Some scoff, some quietly applaud, some write movies about them and others compose songs. Some simply haven't the brains or ability to give a crap.

Lots of people know one and don't even realise it.

I was reading an article in a waiting room the other day, it was a New Scientist magazine. It made a change for the usual Tabloid horrors on offer, that's for sure. Fascinating, it was. This is, in essence, the article. It has illustrations, too.

It starts off talking about the request of Leonardo Da Vinci by Francois of France to build a mechanical lion, which he did - a fabulous undertaking that saw a life like lion walk, pause and its chest open to display lilies. The article explains the programming process and delves back into history for earlier examples of programmed mechanical devices, mentioning that of Al-Jazari and his "drinking boat" in 1206 which carried four mechanical musicians: two drummers, a harpist and a flautist and even further back to Hero of Alexandria who amongst other things, created a programmable (albeit crude type) mobile theatre which held six automata 1500 years before Leo and his Lion.

And to think they accomplished these things before there was the (programmable) computer to do the maths on or the (programmable) microwave oven to reheat their forgotten lunch... now, for the most part, their amazing abilities (and sometimes their mere existence) is forgotten in the dusty annals of history.

I will be king
And you
You will be queen
Though nothing
Will drive them away
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be us
Just for one day

David Bowie

Not being any sort of hero, all I do is use this technology to write about the ancients at 2.30 in the morning. I know who my heroes are; do you know yours?

1 comment:

Flattie said...

yeah mate, sure do....

Gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc - We gladly feast on those who would subdue us ...