Ancient Computing

Ukulele Serialbus is now the UK’s first emeritus professor of Ancient Computing at the prestigious Bridgnorth Institute of Technology. She is, of course, mostly known to the general public for her recent TV series on the Neolithic use of the spacebar and early Roman versions of the Windows operating system. This did so much to turn most of Europe into a single empire, all using more or less the same operating system.

It was Julius Caesar’s defeat of the Gaul tribes and his forcing them to convert from CP/M that brought about the end of the north European tribal system. This lasted until the Roman Windows Empire collapsed when the Barbarians with their superior operating systems destroyed it all.

However, Serialbus takes issue with this argument that the Gauls had an excellent operating system – now unfortunately lost – compared to the OS used by the Romans. Instead, she has uncovered some archaeological evidence from Pompeii, which suggests that instead the satnavs on the Roman chariots had a software bug that caused them to get lost when on the battlefield.

Often, rather than charging the enemy, the Roman chariots instead delivered pizzas to nearby villages and hovels. This, of course, far more importantly than the mere loss of an Empire, means that we must now credit the Romans with the invention of takeaway pizza delivery. Which means that it was not after all the much later Crusades that invented the concept of delivering hot food right to customer’s doors as was previously thought by historians.

Although, as yet, there is no evidence that the Romans – like the Crusaders – offered a free Holy Grail with every order of two large pizzas with extra topping. Although the Crusaders were in competition with the  Saracens and their rapid curry deliveries, so any bonus offer was eagerly seized upon by customers searching for a good deal.

However, that has very little to do with ancient computing, except of course to note that the Crusaders had a very well-developed central ordering system and database. Many historians believe this system was built on some early programming techniques discovered by Bede the Whatever, the leading medieval software company of the time.

However, in her TV series, Serialbus recreated the ancient computer programming language that ran not only Stonehenge itself but also several other similar stone circles and henges throughout prehistoric Europe. It is – as she demonstrated – a programming language powerful enough to calculate the solstices and equinoxes. But it could also calculate – using ley lines – the quickest route home from your nearest henge, order a takeaway mammoth curry and even play an ancient early version of Angry Birds on your own portable stone tablet.

Consequently, as the examples above of later Roman and medieval computing show, there is no clear line separating ancient prehistoric computing from the – admittedly more advanced – computing of later ages as was first thought.

Increasingly, it has been shown by archaeologists and ancient historians like Serialbus that the prehistoric humans knew far more about computing than was realised by earlier generations of archaeologists and historians. Furthermore, it means that an age where spreadsheets and databases were unknown to humanity slips ever further into the distant past. This gives us hope that after such a long association, one day humanity will achieve its dream and develop a computer that does actually work properly.


Published by David Hadley

A Bloke. Occasionally points at ducks.

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