Michal Kohutek

Ancient computer discovered in a Nubian pyramid can run programs written in C

The ingenuity and wisdom of ancient nations has more surprises than we ever expected.

The ingenuity and wisdom of ancient nations has more surprises than we ever expected. It was long thought that the first computer was almost made by mathematician Charles Babbage and almost programmed by measles victim Ada Lovelace. It was long believed that an even older computer was built by craftsmen and mathematicians of Alexandria. However, nobody expected what really lies in the ruins of ancient cities.

A discovery deep in Sahara

While Egyptian pyramids famous, Nubian pyramids are much less known. They were built later, when mathematics were much more advanced. That allowed these ancient builders to build the pyramids more efficiently and as a result, Nubia has much more pyramids than Egypt. Their secrets are excavated at a much slower speed, leaving many subterranean chambers unmapped.

Dr. H. Oggwass, one of leading researchers of Faculty of Archaeology and Computer Science at Hogford university, has noticed black and red inscriptions on walls containing complex mathematical schemes reminding of red-black trees. Further research has shown that these ancient peoples were routinely using also hash tables and quicksort to predict the return of the Winged Octopus God that was worshiped at that time.

He contacted his colleague Prof. P. Oppycog to analyse the complexity of the algorithms and the amount of operations needed to predict the return of their god. The amount of floating point operations necessary was too large for thousands of scholars in a millennium, yet the results written on walls were precise. ‘I am impressed these Nubs have actually done that,’ he said, ‘the Flying Octopus God will return on April 1st, 2020. The GPS coordinates fit the city of R’lyeh, but we cannot figure out where it is.’ These accurate results implied they had to use some kind of computation device. They led an expedition into the war-torn wastelands of Sudan to locate and recover the device.

A successful expedition

After a perilous journey where three of they PhD students died on their mission to make a decoy and protect their advisors from bandits, they entered Nubian valley and descended into the pyramid. After removing several hundreds of metres of sand from the pyramid’s depths, manoeuvring through wicked traps and solving several ancient riddles, they have discovered a complex system of cogwheels, still turning despite its rusty state.

A close inspection has shown it was a Touring-complete device capable of executing programs. For nowadays’ standards, it was obsolete. It was still using 16-bit pointers and lacked any memory protection. Because of that, the discovery was not as big as originally assumed, but the program it was executing, with its source code written on a wall, was really astonishing:

#include "halting.h"

void test3() {
	if (isFinite(&test3)
		while (1) {}
}

int main(int argc, char** argv) {
	return isFinite(&test3);
}

They were writing the curly brackets on the same line as the function arguments!

Nobel Prize assured

Because of their remarkable discovery and the heroic sacrifice of the PhD students, it was announced that the team was nominated for this year’s Nobel prize for computer science. Many scientists who received Nobel Prizes for much lesser contributions into mankind’s knowledge have offered their own Nobel Prizes in case the team will not be selected. Among them is also Zhin Tsitzu, who holds a Nobel Prize for mathematics after discovering a way to solve systems of equations with negative number of unknowns and George Bush, who holds a Nobel Prize for war after finding creative ways of fabricating evidence about weapons of mass destruction.

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