Terry Pratchett’s Hydraulic Computer Wasn’t A Joke After All

In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel Making Money which is a satirical story of the creation of a fractional reserve banking system on the Discworld, the Wizards of the Unseen University* help to develop a water driven computer to model the economy of the city state of Ankh Morpork and predict future trends.

MONIAC – the water computer, now a museum piece (source)

 The computer is no more successful that the modern, digital supercomputers used by banks and governments but the book is very funny, it’s central character has the irresistible name of Moist Von Lipwig and while providing plenty of laughs it makes some very sound points about the flaws in the global financial system.

Now since reading the book I have thought the hydraulic computer was a creation of Terry Pratchett’s abundant imagination. I was wrong it seems, there was once, not all that long ago, a hydraulic financial modelling computer named MONIAC – Monetary National Income Analogue Computer. And it was no less successful (i.e. they’re all totally hopeless) at predicting economic trends than the supercomputers used by banks, government agencies and universities that failed to predict the 2008 financial crisis. I’ve linked an article from Zero Hedge below.

Water clocks are a kind of computer of course and have been around from pre Roman times. The earliest documented by contemporary witness accounts was the one in Alexandria, Egypt, in the reign of Nero (1st Cetury AD). There are several examples of medieval water clocks still telling the time in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and The Czech Republic.

*you have to be sharp to pick up all Pratchett’s jokes, did you know for instance that Britain’s foremost scientific association, The Royal Society, was in former times nicknamed The Unseen College for the way it steered research.
from Zero Hedge

Presenting The 70 Year Old Hydraulic Computer Used By Central Planners To Visualize Economy

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