It's even worse that the mods decided it was a great idea to silence debate by [dead]ing the topic when HNers discussed possible alternatives.
Makes me wonder how much longer I want to stay in this community.
How on earth is this an Inca Internet??
This is why I clicked, I was intrigued how can the Incas have have had an Internet like thing?
I then wasted a lot of time trying to see the relationship. But there is none. It's not even close to an Internet.
I just got link baited. Welcome to Reddit.
The article in itself is probably interesting, but I'm not big on being lied to.
Other discussions about threads disappearing might be interesting but aren't really relevant in this thread.
Now, I'd agree "The Incan Internet" could be improved as a title, especially to explain the article's relevance to this audience. "Quipu: the Incans' digital communication tech" would bridge the gap from the original title to the interesting, vaguely-Internet-like aspect for HN readers.
Unfortunately, it seems the mysterious headline-changing-Gnomes of HN only have a button for "revert to original TITLE", and a fierce loyalty to literalism over creative-but-fair headlines. So, we wind up with useless-but-easily-enforced crap headlines like "Quipu".
This trivializes the subject of history, by enforcing the idea that nothing ever changes. "The Incas had an Internet, we have an Internet, so they must have been just exactly like us, so studying them is a waste of time." Moreover, it ignores the real work done in modern times to make our era different from times past: If anything we have now can be equated with something we had then using facile arguments that make a hash of the facts, then we can make it look like there is no progress and that we don't need to study science or technology any longer.
It's sham history in the service of sham philosophy.
In particular, it's those complaining about how the headline wasted their time who are belittling the value of historical comparisons across very different eras and societies. Their reaction is, "What? The Incans didn't really have anything that could literally be called an Internet? You tricked me into clicking when I could have stayed even more narrowly focused on my present-day Internet-centric concerns!"
Whereas instead, the headline author was trying to shake people out of their presentism with the figurative language. "There is something surprising here about the Incans", he was saying – and absolutely not any larger objectionable/anti-intellectual theme about how "there is no progress" (which is obviously unsupportable from the details on the Quipu system).
However, all the current system does is penalize people who follow the submission rules (since their content doesn't get up-voted), and generate annoying comments about the "original topic" for the rest of us to sift through.
I've now clicked on this link twice because the title changed and I thought it was about something else. Then, having not looked at the comments last time because the subject matter didn't seem interesting, I saw "12 comments" I went and looked to see if I had missed something. Nope, just a lot of unnecessary meta-discussion caused by mods changing the title.
To the mods: it's annoying. Enforce the rules at submission, or knock it off and let the community decide what's interesting.
In some case it's good to have a little title editorializing, for example in this case I would like to "Quipu: How the Incas stored number information in knots" or "Quipu: Incas' device to store numbers"
The Babylonians also had a representation of 0 as being a space. But that created confusions because you can't end a number with a space. For example, 1 and 100 would look the same if you just used a space in place of zero. They eventually created a symbol for zero, but never used it by itself or at the end of a number.
Similarly, the Incas used a space for a zero, but it creates the same reliance on context to deduce the meaning of a space. And since the Incas represented numbers differently in the ones place, that was their marker for the end of a number, which means it can't be nothing. I imagine they could leave a space at the end and use the context of the numbers above or below since numbers were vertically aligned in the quipu.
So no, Incas did not have a proper zero.
They could also do a range inspired by the pulsar distance/frequency depiction in the Voyager Golden Record that describes our Sun's location. I've always thought that was quite cool.