IBM System/360 Not quite ancient computing, but almost…
My wife and I used a 360 at Lowell Technological Institute (now UMass Lowell) during 1968-1971. Spent many hours in the “Computer Center” keypunching cards with FORTRAN programs (one 80-character line of code per card) to run overnight in batch.
On April 7, 1964, IBM launched System/360, a family of six mutually compatible computers and 40 peripherals that could work together. Many consider it the biggest business gamble of all time, yet the System/360 helped transform the government, science and commercial landscape. It introduced a number of industry standards to the marketplace, including the de facto worldwide standard of the 8-bit byte. The $5 billion investment by IBM paid off, and within two years orders for the System/360 reached 1,000 per month. Customers could choose from small to large, low to high performance, (nearly) all running the same command set, allowing customers to begin with a low-cost version of the family, and upgrade later.
Hiram Bingham III
Hiram Bingham III (army aviator, Yale professor, Governor of Connecticut, and U.S. Senator) was born 140 years ago and became known as one of the greatest explorers of the 20th century when he (re)discovered the “lost city” of Machu Picchu in Perú. (Some think that he was the inspiration for the Indiana Jones character of action movies.)
Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and then mysteriously abandoned for centuries. This incredible feat of Inca engineering was built at an altitude of 8,000 ft. in the remote mountains overlooking the Sacred Valley of Perú. The granite stones for the city walls were quarried on site. The real feat of engineering was how precisely each stone fitted with it neighbors to create immovable, indestructible walls.
When I visited Machu Picchu in 2011 the remoteness of the valley with its silent river flowing thousands of feet below, the humid tropical air, and the lush green jungle in every direction gave this mysterious city an unworldly feeling. I ate lunch on a large grassy terrace overlooking the city in speechless wonder.
As grand as the stone structures in Machu Picchu are, there is another ancient engineering marvel near the city of Cusco. The fortress of Sacsayhuamán has impressive Inca stonework but the stones are much larger than those of Machu Picchu (some reaching 100 tons.) None came from nearby—archeologists think that they were transported to Sacsayhuamán from as far as 50 miles away.
Ancient technologies may be considered primitive by today’s standards but they are still precise, spectacular and awe-inspiring wonders!
Baghdad Battery and Dendera Lights
This is the 55th anniversary of the patent for the alkaline battery (No. 2,960,558) and it prompted me to think of the following story about the hypothetical use of battery-powered electric lights in ancient Egypt. Artifacts found in Baghdad, Iraq in the 1930’s and tomb drawings in Dendera, Egypt gave me the idea for a plausible system of electrical lights in “Flight from Egypt-Adventures Along the Nile.”
Baghdad Battery – The three artifacts found in Iraq were (1) a short clay pot or urn with the residue of an acidic liquid; (2) a hollow copper cylinder long enough to fit in the clay urn; (3) an iron rod the same length as the copper cylinder and capable of fitting inside the cylinder. Archeologists found the three objects close to but not next to each other and dated them between 250 B.C. and A.D. 224. Years after they were discovered, an archeologist speculated that with an acid like lemon juice they could be the components of a battery which was dubbed the Baghdad Battery.
After numerous experiments with similar materials (including an episode of Myth Busters) the conclusion that a battery was possible but that the small size would generate 0.5 volts at most. A more plausible (though still farfetched) explanation that the objects could be part of a low-voltage gold or silver electroplating device has also been tested with mixed results.
Dendera Lights – Drawings that look like light bulbs can be seen on the walls of a Temple of Hathor in the Dendera Temple Complex of Egypt. Are the Dendera Light carvings really light bulbs or something else? They could be glass bulbs with filaments inside them. The filaments look like serpents to me and the artistic representations don’t attempt to show them emitting light, they are probably only an abstract design. Still, the idea of an ancient light bulb got me wondering…
Here is a section from the chapter in “Flight From Egypt” where Nathan and Malik are in a tunnel leading to a secret entrance to Queen Hatshepsut’s Tomb:
“Somebody’s down there,” Nathan said.
“I don’t think so. There’s no sound and the light isn’t moving. Let’s keep going.”
As they walked closer, they saw lights in the ceiling. The passageway was higher and wider than any access tunnel they’d seen in other tombs. The walls were rough-cut stone and not the smooth, polished surface found in pyramids. From this, Malik concluded that it was dug quickly and yet was large enough to accommodate the removal of the tomb’s larger contents. They continued following the down-sloping floor which they assumed would take them to the burial chamber of Queen Hatshepsut.
They stopped under the first light and stared at the glowing object in the ceiling. They had never seen anything like it before. Shaped like an onion, the glass bulb about the size of a fist cast a dim orange-yellow light in all directions. Malik reached up then quickly pulled his hand back when it touched the hot glass.
“What is it?” Nathan asked.
“No idea,” Malik replied, blowing on his fingers to cool them off.
They craned their necks up to examine the thin flickering thread that glowed like gold inside the bulb. Nathan was fascinated by the silent, flame-less torch. “There are two strands of something attached along the ceiling that lead from this one to another of those things further down the tunnel.”
They walked faster and traced the two strands to a line of more bright globes evenly spaced in the tunnel ceiling. It didn’t take long for them to reach where the passageway met a small room that did not appear to be the main burial chamber. They found stacks of wooden boxes and large pieces of ornate, royal furniture—chests, beds, wash stands, chairs, tables.
Still intrigued by the ceiling lights, Nathan followed the twin strands to a squat, black storage chest or cabinet on the far side of the room that measured four feet on each side and three feet tall. Other strands emerged from the box and went in other directions. On closer inspection, he realized that the strands were tightly wrapped in papyrus and sealed with black tar.
“What’s that smell,” Malik asked when they stood before the large, squat object. He felt its sides and realized that they were warm, but not too hot to touch like the glass bulbs.
“Pungent. Like some sort of chemical. Maybe like the acid used for tanning hides,” Nathan speculated. “Whatever it is, it’s making those globes give off light and heat. Wouldn’t surprise me if Imhotep had something to do with this.”
“Do you think he’s a tomb robber too?”
“I doubt it. That would be unlike him, but the crooks behind this wouldn’t hesitate to use any invention of his.”
“Well, forget that for now. We need to find the main burial chamber and then get out of here.” Malik led the way down another lit corridor. When they emerged into a large, brightly-decorated room it was clear that this was the final resting place of Queen Hatshepsut. Her enormous gold sarcophagus filled the far end of the chamber and its smooth, ornate surface gleamed under the overhead lights. Much of the large vault, whose colorfully decorated ceiling was reinforced by two fluted, decorative columns, was otherwise empty except for pieces of a broken chariot, a ceremonial reed boat that wouldn’t fit through the tunnel, baskets of decayed fruit and grain, and open boxes in the center of the room waiting to be sealed.
I realized that it’s been a while since I posted something here so here’s an update on my writing:
Remnant Rescue Series – I have wanted to write a novel that takes place sometime in the future during the Great Tribulation. (I’ve never read any of the “Left Behind” books by Tim LaHaye but I did see some of the movies.) Rather than write more novels using advanced technologies in a retro-futuristic era such as the Old Testament, I wanted to write something truly futuristic. The Remnant Rescue Series will be about a team of new believers in the middle of the Tribulation who have access to a fortune amassed by their parents before the Rapture (billions of dollars), use advanced technologies to thwart the world system of the Antichrist (hack into the global network controlling identities, commerce, communications), and travel around the world to rescue those believers who are in danger of being executed for their faith. At the mid-point of the Tribulation the Antichrist stands in the Temple and proclaims himself to be God. From that point on the work of the Remnant Rescue underground never stops!
Remnant Rescue Series (Book 0) — The Zadok Redundancy began as a short introduction and background to the first book in the Remnant Rescue series but quickly became a history of the Sons of Zadok, a secret group of Levite Kohathites founded by Zadok during the reign of Solomon and sworn to guard the Ark of the Covenant with their lives. The book takes its name from the High Priest’s ingenious plan to keep the Ark safe for six centuries. The later Sons of Zadok faithfully uphold their oath to Zadok and preserved the sacred Ark. When the Babylonian army is only miles away from the gates of Jerusalem, the Holy Ark is carried away by the last band of Kohathites to be kept safe from harm. The Ark will be hidden with friends until a new Temple is built or the predicted Messiah comes into Jerusalem.
(This book–in final editing as I write this and planned for publishing in late 2015 for free in digital format–is about 150 pages long and spans the history of the Ark of the Covenant in Solomon’s Temple from the inauguration of the Temple and the appearance of the Glory of the LORD until the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians under King Zedekiah.)
Remnant Rescue Series (Book 1) — Son of Zadok begins more than 2,700 years after the Ark of the Covenant was carried out of Jerusalem to be hidden in a far country as described in Book 0. It is many years after the “Great Disappearance” which some called the Rapture and almost three years after the World Emperor has finally brought peace to a world reeling from God’s cataclysmic judgments. Jacob (Jake) Cohen is an American ocean mining engineer working in Portugal for the Imperial Salvage and Recovery Company who is ordered to Jerusalem by his superiors to consult with the rabbi responsible for construction of the New World Temple. No sooner does he arrive at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel than he finds out that he is teamed with the world-famous Italian marine archeologist, Angelica (Angie) Cherubini. At their meeting with the rabbi they learn that an obscure copper artifact known as the Zadok Scroll gives three possible locations of the original Ark of the Covenant. The Emperor has demanded that the true Ark, or whatever is left of it, be put into the Holy of Holies so he can lead the world in worship from the center of his Temple. Jake and Angie use their skills and a benefactor’s resources to find the Ark but have no intention of giving it to the Emperor when, or if, they find it. Their search takes the pair and a tight-knit crew on their salvage ship to possible sites of the lost Ark until a chain of startling events change Jake’s life forever and he discovers who he really is. The false peacemaker reveals himself in the Temple as the Antichrist foretold by Daniel and by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. The work of the Remnant Rescue team begins in what they learn is the second half of the Tribulation with a dramatic rescue of condemned believers from behind enemy lines as the earth enters the worst period in human history. (Plan is to publish this in digital-only format by the end of 2016.)
The Christian Author Meet & Greet last Saturday was a great opportunity to meet fellow Christian authors and talk about their books. A few of the authors are successful in terms of sales and public recognition. This was an encouragement to me – not because I ever look for or expect wide acceptance – but because it means that good Christian authors are recognized and will be motivated to write excellent fiction and non-fiction!
From my latest book, Flight From Egypt: Adventures Along the Nile.
What is that thing? The flying contraption is the Eye of Horus hot air balloon invented by Imhotep, a descendant of the mysterious, Tiras, who we last saw in the One World Tower adventure before he and his family migrated from Babylon after the fall of the tower to what would later become Egypt.
Are those propellers on a flying boat? Yes, they are powered by a chemical device in the floor of the “boat” suspended below the lifting balloon. You’ll have to read the story to see how The Eye of Horus came to be flying over pyramids carrying two passengers!
You are invited to a Christian Authors book expo on Saturday, April 25th at the Nevins Memorial Library, Methuen, MA. Meet twenty-one other Christian authors, discuss their fiction and non-fiction books, and purchase books at special rates.
Copies of my recently published book Flight from Egypt–Adventures Along the Nile will be on sale along with previous books in the series.
Free admission and refreshments, but YOU MUST REGISTER IN ADVANCE FOR FREE TICKETS to attend this Christian Authors event. The number of tickets is limited so please register now. Click here to sign up at the Eventbrite site.
My new Amazon.com author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/michaelvetter
I was recently interviewed by Christian book author Karla Akins which she graciously posted on her Humor, History & Hope blog. Karla is a pastor’s wife who writes biographies and history books for middle grades as well as fiction and short stories. She is researching the steampunk genre for a new book and came across my comments and profile in a Christian steampunk forum. The interview is on her blog page:
One World Tower book announcement by Christian Self-Publishing Association
How to be Saved page now has VerseClick hot-links to Bible verses. Hover over or double-click on the verse! (Example: Ephesians 2:8-9)
Updated profile for Steampunk Empire and Christian Steampunkers blog
Very pleased with the review of Run Before The Rain by Dr. Robert L. Sumner in the latest issue of The Biblical Evangelist:
The book signing in Salem, NH was a quiet affair with only a few copies sold, but it resulted in some interesting conversations with book-lovers. Thanks to Elizabeth Berlik of Used Books Superstore for setting this up!
Book signing on July 27!
Used Book Superstore is the venue where they sell more than just used books. Come buy a paperback copy of Run Before the Rain – An Antediluvian Adventure and I’ll be glad to sign it with a personal note!
PBS Nova Program on the Antikythera Mechanical Computer!
The next NOVA on most PBS stations ( Wednesday, April 3rd at 9 pm) will feature the ancient Antikythera computer which was inspiration for the “pocket astrolabe” invented by Japheth for terrestrial navigation in the novel Run Before the Rain-An Antediluvian Adventure . The Antikythera was found in 1900-1901 when artifacts from a Greek shipwreck were recovered. The significance of the intricate machine was not realized until many years later when analysis of its almost thirty nested gears revealed that had all the elements of a mechanical computer. Made of intricate, though greatly corroded and fragmented bronze and wood pieces, the ancient device appears to have been built in the first century B.C. The earliest comparable workmanship and understanding of precision gearing known comes from the 14th and 15th centuries. Scientists in the PBS program show a working model of a mechanical computer based on pieces of the Antikythera mechanism. Speculation abounds abut its use, but it could have functioned as an accurate timepiece tied to Sun, Moon, and planetary positions for navigation. Ancient civilizations apparently had a much greater understanding of precision mechanical devices, astronomy, and mathematics than most people realized. The fact that such a complex device as the Antikythera could have been used on a cargo ship in the Mediterranean more than 2,000 years ago is fascinating!
Kind comments from South Africa:
I am writing to you in order to compliment you on the above-mentioned book (which I ordered via an internet online bookshop in South Africa where I stay). I finished reading the said book today and enjoyed it very much. It is indeed a very good read and so far one of the best fiction books that I have read about the time period before the flood. Even though it is indicated to be for youth and young adults, I enjoyed it very much and will pass it on to my children for reading. Older people will for sure also enjoy it. I am looking forward in reading the second book when it is published at the end of 2013.
Johan van Greunen