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Technological prerequisites for clockwork?
http://www.incatena.org/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=38801
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Author:  Zaarin [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

I'm working on a fantasy culture that is generally speaking fairly primitive (not so much from a lack of knowledge but from a very conservative mindset of "this is the way we've always done it") but they are very advanced in terms of lapidary and metallurgy--in short they're a late Neolithic/early Bronze Age culture with post-Iron Age metallurgy due to a religious fascination with stones and metals. So I'm wondering if, given what I've said, I could plausibly give them clockwork as a corollary to their advanced metallurgy? It is also worth noting that they are also very skilled astrologists, which could give them a motive for creating clockwork astronomical devices like the Antikythera mechanism.

Author:  alice [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 1:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

I'd expect a good knowledge of mathematics and engineering, and skill in making small and intricate devices, would be essential. I don't know if that sits too well with the general level of technology of such a culture, however.

Author:  Zaarin [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 1:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Okuno [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 1:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

I mean, you can have all the skill in the world, but you'll never cut a small gear with a maleable tool, and gears will wear out quickly if they are maleable themselves.

Essentially, the harder the substance, the smaller and more intricate the device you can build with/out of it.

That said, I have no idea exactly what kind of substance you need for a good tool or a long-lasting device, but hopefully this gives another avenue of assault.

Author:  LinguistCat [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 2:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

One thing is that to get iron, you need fire-hardened pottery. The metals you can get before that are copper, tin, gold, silver (soft metals), and by mixing copper and tin you can get bronze. But iron, and steel, need much higher temps to be refined and forged. So, I'm not really sure they could get that high of metal working alone.

On the other hand, you said they have an interest in rocks and stones, so maybe they'll have the right pottery too, and be able to go from kilns to forges easily.

Author:  Zaarin [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 2:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

Thanks, guys--those two responses were exactly what I needed. While culturally they are Bronze Age, in terms of metallurgy they are definitely Iron Age--they do have fire-hardened pottery and they do have access to iron.

Author:  Torco [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

Clockwork can be done without any metallurgy at all, let alone advanced metallurgy. You can make a clock out of clay and wood. The only problem is that you need a lot of space, material, work and energy to make it happen.

My own Selian Emperors have prided themselves in constructing complicated clockwork mechanisms [an important thing in a planet without any good astronomical ways to measure time], they're just expensive and large, and require extensive maintenance. Simple calculators, especially division machines, have also been built, since dividing with Ieseleu numerals is a bitch!

Author:  Timmytiptoe [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Izambri [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  JeremyHussell [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

A lot of the technological prerequisites depend on how accurate you want the clock to be. For an astronomer, who can manually adjust a clock to match observations of celestial bodies, and doesn't have to move it, basic metallurgy should suffice. For the kind of accuracy we expect from modern mechanical clocks, you'd probably have to be able to make steel and springs.

Basically, a mechanical clock needs: a power source (a weight suspended from a cord wound around an axle, or a wound spring), an oscillator to generate events at fixed intervals (a pendulum or balance wheel), a way to transmit power from the source to the oscillator (a wheel train), a controller to convert the oscillator motion into gear motion (an escapement), and some extra gears to convert the oscillator period into seconds, minutes, hours, etc., or whatever time units your civilization uses).

Technologically, a pendulum and weighted cord system are the simplest (no springs). Gears can be manufactured by making a cast with the teeth and wheel as one piece. Bronze, brass, or iron would work fine for gears, although steel would be better. To make smaller and more accurate clocks which can be moved, you're going to need springs, which require that your people be able to produce high quality wire or long thin strips of metal. Many components in accurate mechanical clocks are bimetallic (steel and copper, or steel and brass), to compensate for thermal expansion and contraction.

Historically, the pendulum clock wasn't invented until a certain level of physics was reached, although as soon as the laws governing the motion of pendulums were understood, the pendulum clock was immediately obvious as an application. So your people will likely need a certain level of understanding of physics (and math, although a great deal of math gets developed by astronomers). Real accuracy in mechanical clocks was driven by the need for sailors to determine their longitude, so if your people don't have a maritime tradition, it's unlikely they'll be driven to invent bimetallic strips or even compact mechanical watches (as opposed to large, immobile pendulum clocks).

Note that the Antikythera Mechanism isn't a clock: it's just a device for converting one time system (a date, entered manually) into others (positions of celestial bodies, eclipses, phases of the moon, etc.), equivalent to a gear train. A civilization heavily into astronomy/astrology could easily go overboard constructing giant ornate devices like this, or smaller portable versions like the Antikythera Mechanism.

Author:  Rodlox [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 6:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  bulbaquil [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Zaarin [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 8:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

I don't need them portable at all--they're post nomadic and hydrophobic to boot, so no maritime activity. Though I confess that chiefly I'm less interested in applying clockworks for the autonymous purpose than its applications in things like astrolabes, devices like the Antikythera device, and crossbows (I believe that the Chinese developed clockwork crossbows?).

That said, I'm going to do some research on pendulums and with my very, very, very limited knowledge of math and science see if there's any way I might push up the discovery of the pendulum a bit--even if not by my primitive culture...

Author:  Torco [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 8:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

clockwork crossbow?

Author:  Rodlox [ Fri Aug 26, 2011 8:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Zaarin [ Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Ollock [ Sat Aug 27, 2011 7:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  cybrxkhan [ Sat Aug 27, 2011 7:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

Actually if you're talking about the Chinese crossbows, they're actually called repeating crossbows. The Chinese variant is called the Cho-Ko-Nu (or something like that, there's a few different spellings). Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repeating_crossbow

Frankly it seems that the Cho-ko-nu wasn't that great of a weapon by itself per se, since it didn't have as much power as a normal crossbow. However, used en masse, it was dangerous as hell, especially if the arrows were poisoned. Which was why it was still in use up until around 1900 in Chinese armies.

Anyhow, there have also been Graeco-Roman equivalents, although these were larger and were more like anti-personel or small artillery weapons rather than the smaller Chinese ones, and according to a couple of TV shows I can't name right now, it is possible to engineer a crossbow (using the technology of back when) with near machine-gun speed using a crank.

EDIT: In my conworld, this is why I have crossbows become a main weapon of most civilizations when they reach the equivalent of our late medieval or early renaissance technology (along with a bit of clockpunk). These crossbows basically become like machine guns, which is why a World War I-esque style of combat develops and reaches its peak during a 200-year conflict between the largest empires of this time, Aidis and Cedarin (and then throw in other stuff like Chinese-style rockets, Greek Fire flamethrowers, late medieval grenades and mines along the styles of China, a little bit of clockpunk machinery, and good old-fashioned swordfighting, and you got a huge mess on the battlefield).

Author:  Rodlox [ Sat Aug 27, 2011 7:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Okuno [ Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Ollock [ Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Zaarin [ Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Rodlox [ Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  cybrxkhan [ Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?


Author:  Torco [ Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Technological prerequisites for clockwork?

It must also have to do with the fact that archers can be attacked by mele, they shouldn't but it sure did happen. Also, that they were soldiers, and soldiers need to be able to fight, even if their main function isn't fighting.

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