The Antikythera Mechanism, The World’s “First Computer”

Posted by on June 21, 2012

Over a century ago, the broken remains of the Antikythera Mechanism were recovered from a shipwreck off the coast of Antikythera, Greece. It was found in pieces, 82 fragments of an ancient puzzle that together revealed something of an anachronism: the world’s oldest known computer.

Created some time around 150-100 B.C. in Ancient Greece, this bronze device accurately calculated the movements of planets, and likely assisted in the creation of calendars, full-moon and eclipse predictions, and even horoscopes.

X-ray tomography in 2006 revealed the intricate details of the device’s inner mechanisms, as well as ancient inscriptions explaining its purpose. But even today, there’s still a lot we don’t understand, and so the research continues.

In fact, former Science Museum curator Michael Wright actually created a replica of the machine at his home, hoping to delve deeper into its ancient mysteries.

According to BBC News, Wright “estimates he has spent more than 1,000 hours on the project,” and he “taught himself radiography, even devising his own apparatus to help X-ray the mechanism.”

If (for some reason) you’re not impressed by Mr. Wright’s replica in the video up there, why not check out the one made with Legos? That’s 1500 lego parts, 110 gears, and at least 30 days of pure madness.

The Antikythera Mechanism was, as far as we know, one-of-a-kind — such a complex device wouldn’t turn up again for another 1,400 years, with the arrival of astronomical clocks in Europe.

This probably indicates that later mechanisms were “reinvented,” as the knowledge of constructing the device was probably lost. It truly was ahead of its time.

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About the Author Post by Rob Schwarz

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. He manages Stranger Dimensions in between changing aquarium filters and reading bad novels about mermaids.