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On This Day… An Ancient Computer?

Written by: George Chittenden : 10 May 2019

It was on this day, 17th May back in 1902 when archaeologist Valerios Stais discovered the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek device used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses decades in advance. The incredible device was retrieved from a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera, hence the name. The Antikythera mechanism is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least thirty meshing bronze gears, allowing it to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the zodiac, to predict eclipses, and even to model the irregular orbit of the moon.

The Antikythera mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism

It’s believed to have been designed and constructed by Greek scientists and has been dated to approximately 100 BC. Without doubt it’s an incredible device, created by some extremely intelligent people, but is it a computer? It’s often described as one. Technically it is a form of computer known as an analogue computer that uses the continuously changeable aspects of physical phenomena such as to model the problem being solved.

Archaeologist Valerios Stais

Archaeologist Valerios Stais

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