Monday, December 14, 2009

A Jaunt in a TARDIS

So far, I've been focussing on the future of technology—what's going to come and what we already have—but that's only a small part of my mandate here. I haven't discussed fantasy, for instance, or horror, or superheroes, or steampunk. This is a woeful failing, no? I think so, anyway, and I plan to fix it. Expect non-futuristic posts this week.

To start off, I'm actually bypassing steampunk completely and heading for the Middle Ages. Why? Because I want to introduce one of the very earliest computers: the astrolabe. Astrolabes are gadgets that let you measure distances, tell time, find your position in the world, and so on, and so on, with a minimum of moving parts.

Here, have a video*:

Neat, huh? Who knew those medieval types were so clever and advanced! And Wujec's only touching the surface, at that.

And now, my own list of things to do with an astrolabe:

  • work into a fantasy story, in a cameo role
  • work into a fantasy story, in a supporting role
  • work into a fantasy story, in a pivotal role
  • do what Gibson and Sterling did with the difference engine and The Difference Engine**, except, y'know, earlier
  • write an alternate history starting Geoffrey Chaucer. I bet he'd make a great hero.

Then again, with my luck, somebody's probably already done all that. In which case, give me titles! Please!

* In case it's not obvious, I found this on
** Steampunk! Alternate history!

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