As I read George Dyson
's excellent book (Darwin Among the Machines
) it seems that this is only partly the full history. The rest of the fable concerns the information
that the head would provide; a means to build a 'wall of brass' around England
(yeah. Like that
Anyway, this mechanical head was also reported as the construct of Pope Silvester II - who 'helped introduce Arabic numerals and arithemetic into Europe' as well as making a 'steam-driven organ' and 'mechanical clocks'. Interestingly, for the conclusions drawn in the other writeup, the apprentice (Miles) took the piss most righteously with the head : "Do you tell us Copper-nose when TIME IS?" and "Thou Brazen-faced head, hath my master took all this pains about thee, and now dost thou requite him with two words : TIME IS?"
Clearly, the apprentice was messing around - let this be further warning. On a related note, there is a sentance in the chapter that is particularly apposite for E2:
"...the warning of the head goes unheeded as we stand transfixed, like monkeys given a mirror, by the novelty of our own image reflected in the surface of the web."