“If anyone’s read about the original reason I started nCube, you will recall that it was my own invention many years ago as a teenager.  I thought that was a long time ago until a cousin of mine came across Hero of Alexandria’s method to automatically open the temple gates in the 1st Century AD”, Philip Steele said about ancient home automation. 

Hero of Alexandria ( c. 10 AD - c. 70 AD) was a Greek mathematician and engineer, and he is considered one of the greatest experimenters of antiquity, so great that his automated devices represent some of the first formal research into cybernetics. 

Amongst his great inventions is the Eolipila (1), a steam engine which allowed the first ever automation in a building by using heat and pneumatics to open a set of temple doors.

(1) 

 

(2) In the basement of the temple, the chains of a scale were wrapped around the rotation axles of the doors (O & P). The scale had a container (M) and a counterweight on each side. After a sacrifice, the heat from the fire of the latter made the air inside the closed container of the alter expand (F) and go through a pipe to a closed container with water (G). The water was pushed through a siphon (L) and entered the container on the scale, which then tipped, overweighing the counterweights, leading to the scale to tilt in that direction. The chains of the scale rotated the axles and the temple gates automatically opened. After the sacrificial ceremony, the phenomena were reversed and the temple doors automatically closed. 

(2)

This building automation occurred after a sacrifice on the altar of the temple, thus creating the impression of a miracle in the faithful.

Are you still wondering exactly how it works? Check out this YouTube video and get a visual of the process.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE2qyZ7hUxU.

The concept of nowadays smart homes is centred on making life easier and better by allowing you to easily automate your lights, to save money on energy bills, to secure your home while staying connected with your family; thanks to modern smart homes you can control your entire house anytime from everywhere. Hero of Alexandria’s device was used to deceive the faithfuls into the belief of a miracle occurring. This type of “smart home” obviously did not happen in the same technological way as it does today, but it is very interesting to see how the idea of home automation goes as far back as thousands and thousands of years ago. We think that the concept of a smart home is an original and very recent idea, when in fact, it’s all been done before.

 

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