Posted June 12, 2013 by Dr. Henri Montandon in brain experiments

NOVA beta

Please put away your books and notes, it’s time for a quiz.

Circle the answer below which best represents the date of the first computer.

1822  CE

70  BCE

1206  CE

1941  CE

2700  BCE

Depending on your perspective, and what you mean by “computer”, any of the dates given could be correct. 2700 BCE is the date of the first device used to simplify the calculations of arithmetic – the Sumerian abacus. 70 BCE is the date assigned to the Antikythera Mechanism – a brass machine with geared wheels probably made in Greek Syracuse which could calculate eclipses as well as the position of the planets. In 1206 CE an Arab engineer, Al-Jazari, invented the “castle clock”, an astronomical clock which is considered to be the earliest programmable analog computer. In 1822 Charles Babbage designed his first mechanical computer, the prototype of the ‘difference engine’ for tabulating polynomials. And in 1941 Konrad Zuse completed the ‘Z3’: the first operational programmable computer.

The Antikythera mechanism, facsimile.

In many ways, the history of computing machines highlights the plus ultra  of modernity, the unconquerable itch to always go beyond what has been done before. The decipherment of the function of the Antikythera Mechanism, found over one hundred years ago amidst debris from an ancient shipwreck near the Greek island Antikythera, is a crisply told, brilliantly edited and intriguing story from today’s featured website, Nova beta (

From the site:

So what’s a beta anyway? If you’ve visited  NOVA Online in the past, this site will look and feel very different. That’s because we’ve come up with some new ways to design, organize, and present our content to make it more useful for you.

But it’s time for an overhaul so we can make it easier for you to find more of what you’re looking for. This is just a first step, with a small fraction of our entire site presented in this new way. It’s a chance for us to evolve, test new ideas, and get your feedback. Over time, our goal is to migrate all NOVA content into this new site, and to continue to improve on what we’ve done here.

The site currently features reporting from the frontiers of


The site is also one of the most beautifully constructed we have seen. The designers have used all of the apps, widgets and wiglets that the internet has on offer: Articles, Audio Slide Shows, Audio Stories, Blogs, Episode Transcripts, Expert Q & A, Full Episodes, Games, Interactive, Interviews, Quizzes, Slideshows, Timeline, Video Shorts.

The site serves the public well as an interface between peoples’ interest in science, and well told narratives of the current Hot Stuff. Not surprisingly, there is something of interest to students of consciousness science in all the categories on the site.




Dr. Henri Montandon