Neither micro nor soft: This intricate shipwrecked device unearthed by divers in 1901 was used by the ancient Greeks to plot the alignments of planets and predict astronomical events some 2,000 years ago. Thanks to its sophisticated design, portable equipment is often regarded as ” the oldest computer in the world “.
It is called the Greek Antikythera Mechanism, named after its discovery off the island of Antikythera in Greece. To operate it, the user would wrap his or her jeweled hands with a handle on the side, he observes Smithsonian Magazine .
It has also been suggested that the tool may have been used to follow the four-year cycle of athletic games similar to the ancient Olympics.
Image via Tilemahos Efthimiadis / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Found housed in a wooden box, all that remains of the mechanism are 82 disconnected fragments. With parts of it missing, scientists are still pissed about how the technology works.
However, a team of researchers from University College London thinks they have an idea. In one study published this year, they described having designed a theoretical model to explain the mechanism at the front. Presumably rooted in the ideologies of Babylonian astronomy, Plato’s mathematics, and Greek astronomy, the tool was a “complex 3D puzzle,” as they called it.
The mechanism is said to have been built with 30 interlocking bronze gears, which, when loaded, informed the user about the “movements of the Sun, Moon and all five planets,” according to the document. Since the Greeks believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, the mechanical computer was built to represent it.
“Ours is the first model that conforms to all physical evidence and matches the descriptions in the scientific inscriptions engraved on the mechanism itself,” he described the lead author Tony Freeth in the press release. “The Sun, the Moon and the planets are shown in an impressive tour de force of ancient Greek brilliance.”