Science, Tech

Is This The World’s First Computer?

The front view of a model of the Antikythera Mechanism.
The front view of a model of the Antikythera Mechanism.
The rear view.
The rear view.

The Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient astronomical calculator, built by the Greeks, is often regarded as the first analog computer.

The instrument had a clock-like assembly of hand-cut, bronze gears and dials, housed in a wooden box. It was operated by a hand crank.

It predicted eclipses as well as the position of the Sun, the Moon, and that of the planets. It also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, precursor of the modern Olympic Games.

In size, it [was] startlingly similar to a laptop computer, though a bit thicker.

It was recovered by divers, in 1901, in the wreckage of a ship that sank off a tiny island, off Crete. Archaeologists and historians have long debated who developed it, and when. And they still have no concrete answer. But new analysis suggests that it’s older than previously believed, dating it at around 205 B.C.

Technology of this complexity and sophistication didn’t appear again, for another 1,000 years.

h/t: THE NEW YORKER and NYT

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