Best Ancient Gadgets According to Gadget Lab

Illustration for article titled Best Ancient Gadgets According to Gadget Lab

This week's retromodo installation kicks old-skool ass, and it is not because we have found a follow up the Death Ray Machine, or found the father of the first cupholder, oh no. It is mainly because we have left the hard work up to the guys at Wired, and they really have out done themselves. They were not settling for just one seriously retro gadget—they found them all.


We won't list the lot here, but the best of the bunch include the:

Antikythera Computerc. 1st Century B.C. Discovered in 1900, amongst relics of an ancient shipwreck, the mechanism contained in the device was uncovered in 2006. Though it is unclear how it worked exactly, the navigational tool was thought to be used onboard ships as an early pre-compass type tool.

The Baghdad Batteryc. 250 AD. Where would we be without portable power? Not in ancient Baghdad for sure. The galvanic cells were discovered in the 1930s, but their use remains a mystery. The terracotta urns had small copper and iron fixtures, and they were filled with an acidic agent that propagated a chemical reaction. The reaction caused a small amount of electricity to flow. It was theorized that they may have been used to electroplate dull metals.

The Turk 1770. The Turk may well have been the first gadget prank in history, which means it should be contender for first joke post in ancientmodo's archive. Essentially, the device concealed a chess player within it. When an unsuspecting player tried it out, the pieces would appear to move autonomously, but were in fact being moved by a series of cogs controlled by the hidden chess master. Those ancient pranksters sure were crazy.

To get the full low-down on other great age-old gadgets, including the first true compass, planetarium, watch and GPS (kinda), as well as a few others, hit up Wired's excellent feature. It is awesome. [Wired]


Hero (aka Heron) of Alexandria built prank gadgets 2000 years ago. He built some quite sophisticate automata that would perform wonders in temples.

Benjamin Franklin didn't even re-invent the battery. He merely described some capacitors that were invented by someone else. The modern invention of the battery is credited to Alessandro Volta (who gave name to the unit the Volt).

Incidentally, it's doubtful that Benjamin Franklin even carried out his kite experiment. He makes no reference to it until writings shortly before his death (when he was probably trying to secure his legacy). Even if he did carry out that experiment, what did it prove?