Greek's Ancient 'Antikythera' Computer Deciphered
I think someone else on NP had higlighted the story of this ancient computer, but I find it too interesting not to do a little bit more research, find out the story behind it and not share it with everyone.
31st July 2008 - The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. Earlier research showed that the device was probably built between 140 and 100 BC.
The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument's back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar and used to predict solar eclipses.
There are millions of us that log on to our computer and internet every single day. Informations are received in seconds and Tokyo, Milan or New York are not further than just a cliche-click away. Computers has made us into the info-junkie we are. Surely IBM can only take credit for the modern computers, but who thought about it? Certainly not 2000 years old Greeks?
After a closer examination of the Antikythera Mechanism, a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.
Prior to the new findings, it was thought to be only a mechanical calculator (extraordinary by its own for a technology of 2000 years old) and it was designed to calculate astronomical positions.
The device was thin ( 9cm thick (3.5inch) (much like the size of a modern laptop) and is inscribed with a text over 3000 characters. Most of the characters shows instruction for observations of the star (the sun) and motions of planet like Hermes (Mercury) and Aphrodite (Venus) and eclipses.
The magnitude of importance of this find was best described by Professor Michael Edmunds of Cardiff University and Nicholas Paphitis back in 2006:
"This device is extraordinary, the only thing of its kind," said Professor Edmunds. "The astronomy is exactly right ... in terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa."
Imagine tossing a top-notch laptop into the sea, leaving scientists from a foreign culture to scratch their heads over its corroded remains centuries later. (Michael Paphitis)
The Antikythera mechanism is the oldest identified complex scientific instrument. It was reported that its miniaturization and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century clocks. Its origin as well as its heritage was suggested to go back in time of the colonies of Corinthian with a link to great Archimedes (Greek mathematician, inventor, engineer, physicist and astronomer of classical antiquity).
Predictably, there were similar devices mentioned in ancient literature by Cicero's de Republica and the writer Pappus Alexandria. If Cicero's facts were correct then a similar device to the Antikythera mechanism had already existed as early as 3rd century BC.
Among the larger questions, scientists and historians said the place of the Antikythera Mechanism in the development of Greek technology remained poorly understood. Several references to similar instruments appear in classical literature, including Cicero's description of one made by Archimedes. But this one, hauled out of the sea in 1901, is the sole surviving example.
"We believe that this mechanism cannot have been the first such device since it is so sophisticated and complex," Freeth said. "And we don't understand why this extraordinary technology apparently disappeared for several hundred years, later to emerge in the great astronomical clocks of the 14th century onwards."
A simple explanation would be that all empires in history that rise would eventually fall - and buried with them, a whole civilization of knowledge, technologies and mysteries of the "history" of men. But what is life without a few mysteries for us to decipher...