"Necessity is the mother of invention." Those people were fighting for their very existence. Like the prospect of hanging, it tends to focus the mind. <grin>
There are still military aircraft flying with mechanical analog computers for various onboard functions. I've spoken to crews who used to work on them, and apparently they're amazing to watch. Sort of like engineering X-Y pen plotters, or watching a campfire... they fascinate the eyes and mesmerize the mind. I have a lot of respect for the folks who figured out how to do some of that stuff with nothing more than springs, airpots, solenoids, etc. We may do more in a smaller volume these days, but we're not any more clever.