10 facts about the world’s first analogue computer- Antikythera

In the 19th century, Charles Babbage conceptualized the first ever computer. However, 115 years back a discovery in the shipwreck put the concept date of computers way back to 70 BC. Antikythera- a Greek mechanism was unraveled and studies have shown that it was the world’s first analogical computer.

At a glance, even if this piece of brass may look like something you can easily find in a junkyard, the object is calibrated with the finesse that of a Swiss watch. The debate as to what the object went on for decades, it was Derek.J Solla Price- a science historian from Princeton who studied the gears and analyzed that the object was used to predict the position of stars and plants. The main gear represented the calendar year and would, in turn, move many smaller gears to denote the position of planets, sun, and moon.

Plancess gives you 10 facts about Antikythera- the innovation that lay in the depths of the sea.

  • The device is believed to have been present under the sea for 2,000 years.
  • It was the Greeks who invented the device between 200 and 70 BC.
  • To study the device, researchers used improved and advanced X-ray technologies and uncovered new hidden features. 30 different gears were discovered! The state-of-the-art scanning devices deciphered about 3,500 characters of text written in ancient Greek.
  • The Antikythera is about the size of a mantel clock. From the pieces of wood found on the device, it was concluded that the machine was stored in a wooden box.
  • The mechanism on which Antikythera worked was also that of a clock. The case is supposed to have a large circular face with rotating hands. A knob was present for winding it backward or forward. When the knob turned, the trains of interlocking gear wheels drove seven hands at various speeds. But instead of hours and minutes, the hands displayed celestial time. One hand was on the Sun, one for the moon and the other five for the five planets that were visible to the naked eye- Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The rotation of the Moon was depicted by black and silver ball. The inscriptions explained which stars rose and set on any particular date.
  • In 1974, scientist-historian Derek J de Solla Price presented a model as to how Antikythera mechanism functioned.
  • This mechanism had people’s attention in 2006 when Mike Edmunds of Cardiff University presented CT scans of the fragments which revealed more details about the inner workings of the device.
  • Although this mechanism was much ahead of its years, it has not been yet figured out who used it. While some speculate it was placed in schools or a place of worship, others say that it was a piece of gift for Ceaser’s victory entourage.
  • Antikythera, apart from predicting planetary movements was probably also used to tell fortunes. The Greeks believed that characteristics of an eclipse are related to good or bad omen. And with the technology in hand., they could predict the future based on beliefs.
  • With excavations over the years, it is being assumed that there actually might be two Antikythera shipwrecks!

It is interesting to see that the depths of the calm ocean has so many secrets hidden. Subscribe to Plancess JEEMag and discover more such interesting facts.

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