The world’s most ancient computer, Antikythera mechanism, has long been puzzling researchers.
Who created it and most importantly, for what reason? It seems that after years of research, this mystery was finally solved. But first of all, let’s take a look at a brief history of the Antikythera mechanism.
The World’s Most Ancient Computer
The Antikythera Mechanism has been studied for more than a century. This sophisticated device, which is thought to be the world’s first computer, was found in a shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, Greece, in 1901.
The analysis of the mechanism along with flasks, jewelry, coins, and statues recovered in the shipwreck showed that the items dated back to 100-150 B.C.
Since then, researchers have been closely studying the Antikythera mechanism, trying to figure out what its use was. It was suggested that it served the ancient Greeks as an astronomical calculator.
Recent research by an international group of scientists sheds new light on the Antikythera mechanism and the purpose it was created for.
Giannis Bitsakis, physicist and historian of science and technology at the University of Athens, presented the results of the 10-year research at a conference that took place in the Historical Library of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation in Piraeus, on June 9, 2016.
The new data obtained from the deciphered mechanism’s inscriptions reveal a whole universe hidden in the gears of the ancient device.
It’s now no doubt that this extremely precise ancient computer with its aligned wheels, spokes, and cogs was used to predict eclipses and track the movements of planets and stars.
Deciphering the Device’s Inscriptions
Until 1972, about 923 letters and numbers from the mechanism’s inscriptions were decoded. The new research made it possible to decipher 3,400 characters on a total of 82 fragments of the ancient computer.
The research team managed to figure out whole sentences that are a sort of a manual for the device and reveal how it works.
How the Antikythera Mechanism Works
On one side of the device, there is a handle or a knob that initiates the whole system. If you turn the handle, the pointers in the front and rear sides of the mechanism start to rotate, revealing the movements of the Moon and planets. You choose a date, and the mechanism shows the astronomical phenomena that occur on that day.
Moreover, the movements of the planets are directly linked to specific observation sites, which suggests that the device was meant to be used in more than one location. There is also a link with the sports events of the ancient world, such as the Olympic Games and the Isthmian Games.
As Bitsakis said, the device basically does the same thing we are doing with the help of computers today – calculating the past and future eclipses and other celestial events. Only that the Antikythera Mechanism was able to do it more than 2000 years ago…
Xenophon Mousas, professor of astrophysics at the University of Athens, went on to say that the Antikythera Mechanism paved the way to our whole civilization and all the technology we have today.
The only thing is clear – this amazing ancient computer is another example to show how advanced our ancestors actually were. Hopefully, further research will decipher the rest of the mechanism’s inscriptions and will reveal more fascinating facts about this remarkable device.
Featured image: Aleksandr Zykov from Russia / CC BY-SA
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