In an age of augmented reality, immersive experiences, and instant gratification at the swipe of one’s fingers, it might seem a bit twee to be impressed by the technological accomplishments of our ancient ancestors.
Yet as children, and adults too, we remain endlessly fascinated by musical boxes, elaborate cuckoo clocks, View-Masters and Rube Goldberg machines – analogue devices that operate on simple principles of technology, which continue to be at work in much of the world today.
So it figures why I, a millennial adult, and a Greek, was pleasantly surprised when I visited Science Centre Singapore’s latest exhibition, The Inventions of Ancient Greece: Origins of Our Modern Technology.
I had gone expecting to see an astrolabe, or some other astronomy instrument, or some ancient war technology which I learnt, way back when in school. Instead, I was greeted by water urns that work together as an alarm clock, a robot sommelier that pours wine when a cup is placed in its palm, and the very first example of a cinema.
The exhibition includes more than 40 artefacts, remodelled after ancient Greek inventions such as the portable calculator and an early gyroscope. Each object is accompanied by text explaining the technology behind it, and a short video showing how it works.