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ancient science: the case of the oldest computer
The Antikythera Mechanism Still Challenges Our Ideas About the Past
This ancient computer and other anachronisms from early times leave us
with more questions than answers.
Ryan Sprague and Jane Moore
01 Apr 2021
Researchers at University College London recently announced that they
have digitally recreated the design of a 2,000-year-old mechanical
device known as the Antikythera mechanism, which some believe may have
been the world's first computer.
The mechanism, composed of a highly sophisticated hand-powered
gearbox, was thought to be used to accurately predict the motions of
the 5 planets known to the Ancient Greeks who built it. The
mechanism was so intricate in its conception and engineering that many
scientists were baffled by it when it was recovered from a shipwreck
in the Mediterranean Sea near the island after which it is named.
[Image] Antikythera Mechanism (Aleksandr-Zykov/CC 2.0)
Often regarded as the world's oldest known computer, nothing like it
has been found before or since; in fact, the next recorded instance of
technology even beginning to approach the sophistication of the
Antikythera Mechanism occurred a millennia after the device was built.
Covered in a green patina and corroded from the 2,000 years it spent
in sea water, approximately 82 pieces that make up the mechanism have
been recovered. The wooden box that once housed the mechanism was
nearly entirely rotted away by the time scientists uncovered the
artifact. But with its precise and deliberate bronze angles, 2 dozen
or so clock-likegears, and even instructions inscribed on its
components, archaeologists determined that what they were seeing was
genuine: the Antikythera Mechanism is the world's first known analogue
08 Apr 2012 NOAA $bn disasters Q1 release
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