- Technological development without writing (related to general technological development without writing)
- How would a society without linear alphabetic writing have devised human-readable computer inputs? (related to computer system development with writing, but with pre-composing characters rather than non-composing Roman letters)
A civilization has reached a high level of cultural and technological development without the development of reading and writing. They are at least equivalent to the Incas, and may have some classical Greek tech like Hero's steam turbine and coin-operated vending machine. The society places a strong emphasis on the development of memorization techniques, and the average educated person can recite at will what, in our world, would be multiple textbooks and years' worth of articles, stories, lore, and news. They aren't primitive - they can do advanced math, understand and follow multi-step directions, describe the natural world at length, apply theoretical and empirical scientific processes, etc. - they just can't read and are not likely to develop such tech anytime soon.
This civilization has been experimenting with fine gearings, vacuum tubes, logic gates, and other early computer tech, but they seem to be unable to make the jump to writing software due to their lack of literacy.
How would this civilization develop general-purpose computers? To some extent, punched cards can be used to encode numbers and perhaps basic operations (e.g. add, load, display), but without the knowledge of alphabetic, syllabic, or other writing, it seems a stretch for them to begin encoding arbitrary text onto the cards, such as a user interface, human-understandable error messages, or downloadable content.
*How does such a civilization move beyond using computers to do basic math (e.g. "dot dot dot plus dot dot equals dot dot dot dot dot") to having general-purpose computers, without first developing reading and writing?
The exact form of the computers are not important as long as they are general purpose ones, so a steampunk Analytical Engine is fine as long as it can be built without writing and used by a person with no knowledge of reading and writing (but perhaps with an extensive scientific, engineering, literary, and cultural education).