Sunday, October 31, 2021

Time Travelling with a Very Old Computer

15th century Incan agricultural research
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

The Incas and other Andean cultures had no alphabetic writing system – they used the quipu to keep records and communicate information.  This device, composed of knotted string, was truly ingenious, easily carried, and surprisingly accurate and flexible – though calling it a computer is a bit of a stretch. It was widely used throughout the Andean region from 1400 CE until 1532, when Spanish writing systems took over.

The colourful quipu above was overlaid on a painting of the Moray Agricultural Terraces, a location developed by the Incas. The terraces simulated a broad range of microclimates and were used to find the ideal strains of vegetables for different mountain regions.