PBS // 2013 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // April 24th, 2013
Who was the genius inventor behind it?
In recent decades, computers have dramatically changed the way our society operates. It's nearly impossible to imagine living in a world without computers, as we've grown so accustomed to the speed and convenience they've brought to our lives (along with a number of headaches, of course, but such is the case with any new technology). I had long been under the impression that the computer was a fairly recent invention. Had you asked me about the invention of the first computer, I probably would have made some fuzzy, half-informed reference to Alan Turing. However, according to the new Nova special Ancient Computer, the very first computer was actually invented by the Greeks thousands of years ago. Suck it, Turing!
The discovery of this remarkable device was initially overshadowed by the fact that the device was found among a number of other more immediately impressive Greek artifacts. Statues, coins and other treasures were found amongst the wreckage of an old ship. However, once researchers started taking a closer look at the peculiar, fragmented device they came across, they realized that they'd actually stumbled upon an astonishingly sophisticated machine. So sophisticated, in fact, that it technically qualified as an actual computer (albeit one run by gears rather than electronic elements). However, the tricky part was determining what exactly this computer was used for (despite the fact that it was sophisticated for the era in which it was made, it doesn't seem capable of serving as a delivery device for porn or kitten photos, so the obvious answers are eliminated).
A team of scientists combine their forces in an attempt to determine what the device was used for. Once they eventually make that discovery (which I won't spoil for you, as it doesn't arrive until well after the special's halfway point), they're then tasked with figuring out how exactly the Greeks figured out that such a thing would work. Much of the special is comprised of dramatic footage of assorted experts scratching their heads and frantically writing down mathematical formulas, but that proves more entertaining than it sounds. As with many Nova specials, it's on the clinical side at times, but it's worth your patience.
Ancient Computer offers a strong standard-def transfer. There's a bit of rough-looking archival footage employed, but for the most part everything looks sturdy. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track gets the job done nicely, too. No supplements are included.
Over the course of an hour, Ancient Computer delivers both a valuable examination of an early technological leap and an engaging look at ancient Greek culture. Check it out.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated