I have been learning about the astrolabe in recent months and enjoying it immensely. The more I learn, the more I wish the astrolabe were still in common use. There are several reasons why I think the astrolabe is quite possibly one of the coolest pieces of technology ever created:
First, the astrolabe, being an instrument that captures the movement of the sun and stars, provides for the user a window into the very operation of the cosmos as well as (and this is most important) the user's proper place in the cosmic order. This is to say that it orients the user toward something bigger without giving the user the illusion of domination or control. Sounds lofty, doesn't it? We're not used to thinking of technology in that way today. Modern technology tends not to have the same focus or intent and also can create unhealthy dependencies (on electricity, oil, consumption of natural resources, etc...) that further separate us from the function of the natural world in which we live.
Second, the astrolabe is an instrument that has been used devoutly and faithfully for centuries, transcending cultural and religious boundaries. It has allowed different cultures and religious groups, including Jews, Muslims, and Christians, to share practical knowledge with one another.
Finally, the astrolabe is, quite simply, a stunningly beautiful work of art. Each culture and maker has sought to create these instruments with deep precision and beauty, reflecting a profound respect for the instrument and what it does.
Use it wisely, my friends.