What is the Antikythera Mechanism? – The Antikythera mechanism is a 2,000 year old computer
21st century is the most modern century, lots of inventions make appearance every year. It is a computer advanced era, throughout its inventions, technology has developed a lot. Now, you can have computer in your pocket or you can use it on your fingertips. But did you know about the first analogue computer? Here we are going to learn about this amazing invention from Greek period.
This first of its kind analogue computer is known as Antikythera Mechanism. It is an ancient Greek and world’s first analogue computer, Greeks invented and developed the device to chart the movement of sun, moon, eclipses and planets. According to few scientist who held their research on awesome device suggest that the device was dated back to 205 B.C. The most sophisticated invention of its time, because no such mechanism was discovered for next thousand years.
Antikythera Mechanism device was similar in size of a mantel clock, bits of wood found on the device parts show that it is made of bronze and covered in a wooden case. The device is surprisingly thin, 33 cm in height, 17 cm in width and 9 cm thick. The machinery is hidden inside the case which is sized as much as a shoe box. It worked with all sophisticated kind of 30 gears. There is also a knob or a handle on the side, for twisting the device forward or backward.
The Antikythera mechanism is now understood to be dedicated to astronomal phenomenon and operates as a complex device as a computer which tracks the cycle of solar system. The device could be used to predict and track that where the planets were, understand lunar and solar eclipses, and count towards next Olympic games. The ancient astronomical analogue computer can also add, multiply; divide and subtract. It also used to align the number of lunar months with years and display where the sun and the moon were in zodiac.
Discovery of Antikythera Mechanism
The Antikythera Mechanism which is also known as “world’s first computer” was discovered in 45 ft depth of sea on an ancient shipwreck on the Greek Island of Antikythera, in 1901. More than 115 years, device was discovered by a group of sponge divers. The device then was moved to National museum of Archeology in Athens for storage and study. At first it was a chunk of mold, wood and bronze, from a distance it look like rocks with patches of mold. went unnoticed for almost two years, as staff didn’t pay much attention to the discovery. The discovery surprised the international community, experts of ancient life specially.
In 1902, Archeologist Velorios Stais examined the device and found out that one of the rocks had a gear or wheel embedded on it. At first he believed it is an astronomal clock due to its clock-alike appearance. Most of the science scholars of that time conclude that this device was too complex and advanced to construct the device in the age it belonged to. They all made their assumptions but no one knew at that time, what it was. It also confused the because no such device like this was ever discovered before.
For decades, scientific research failed itself to discover the facts about this mechanism. It has puzzled and confused historians of science and technology since it was discovered.
In 1950’s the British Physicist Derek J. de Solla Price became fascinated by the complexity of Antikythera Mechanism, and studied the device for 8 years thorough X-ray photographs. He published his occlusions in 1959 in an article titled “An ancient Greek computer”. Price deduced from his research that remains of a great astronomical clock had close ties with “a modern analogue computer”. Price was highly criticized by scholars of his time as they refused to believe in the possibility of such device or mechanism.
In, 1974, Price published the result of his further conclusions based on more x-ray and gama radiography by a Greek nuclear physicist Chritos Karakalos. This further research showed that the mechanism has at least 30 gears and most of them are incomplete. And when it handle was rotated, the mechanism was meant to show the movement of sun, moon and planets. The main showed the calender year and smaller gears represented movement of sun, moon and planets.
The Antikythera mechanism strongly suggests itself of an ancient Greek complex mechanical technology which, transferred via the Arabs, formed the basis of European clock making techniques. Another smaller device which dates back to sixth century has been discovered. Which models the motion of sun and moon, and provides a missing link between Antikythera mechanism and later Islamic calendar computers. Such as a 13th century device at the Museum of the History and Science in Oxford has the same kind of techniques as described in a manuscript written by an Arab scientist and astronomer Al Biruni in 1000AD.
Antikythera Mechanism Theories
After its discovery, many scholars believe that the device is nothing more than a clock and hypothesized that the object must have been dropped into the sea in medieval times and somehow made its way into the wreck. But later some historians and scientist believed that the device apparently have been built many years before the shipwreck it was founded in, most likely in 82 B.C.
In 2000, a team of researchers first time in Antikythera Mechanism’s investigation revealed that there is an instruction manual written on parts of the device which were never noticed before. using x-ray scanners and imaging technology had made possible to read the text. Alexander Jones New York university Professor who also has worked on the mechanism called it a “philosopher’s instructional device ” Jones and his team were able to read 3500 characters of explanatory text in ancient Greek engraved inside the mechanism. According to Jones, this is a guide on how to use the device.
Considering all the available facts, the popular theory today is that the clock-work device was designed to display the progress of and movement of sun ,moon and all of five planets (Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn) In other words it is an astronomical analogue computer device. In today’s age computer programs in digital codes, series of binary numbers, but this ancient device worked with the mathematical ratios of its gears.
The new study in 2016 says, that the world’s first was not used by Greeks just to read the astronomal movement – it was also used to tell the fortune. One of the astrophysicist Mike Edmunds who is also a part of the research team says “Its confirm that the mechanism display on the device displayed planets as well as showing the position of sun and moon, According to him the decoding of messages also threw up an interesting chunk. “This is the first time we have in the mechanism of any real mention of astrology rather than astronomy”
Here are few short and interesting facts about Antikythera Mechanism:
- It was discovered from a Roman-era shipwreck and named after the Antikythera Island in Greece where the mechanism was found in the depth of sea. Antikythera means “opposite of Kythera” Kythera is another island in Greece.
- While during the discovery, one of the sponge diver was killed and other two were paralyzed.
- A theory was brought up in 2006, that the ship might have been headed to Rome as a part of victory parade for the emperor Julius Cesar.
- As mentioned above, unfortunately it took 75 years for scientist to recognize the mechanism’s importance. As its mystery puzzled them over the decades.
- Hipparchus might have invented the mechanism. The Trigonometry’s inventor believed that Earth revolves around the sun, but he could never prove it.
- Antikythera Mechanism was technologically advanced. No such invention exceeded it almost for 1500 years.
- No such research brought up till now that where this mechanism was used. Some scholars think it might have been used in a school or church.
- The devices used hands or pointers for planets, all of which are easily visible in the sky at night.
- Artifacts and reconstructed models of Antikythera can be viewed at the National Archaeological Museum of Greece.
This is one the most amazing discoveries in history. One can imagine the advance mental ability of the person who invented this prochronistic mechanism. This discovery has enhanced our understanding of the human history and tells us that wonders can happen in any age. Still there is much for scientists and historians to discover, but we hope this article brought up all the information you were looking for the world’s first analogue computer.
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