Saturday, 3 January 2015

Antikythera Mechanism

What is thought by science to be the world's "oldest mechanical computer" is actually much older than was originally thought. The Antikythera Mechanism was thought to have been constructed around 125 B.C. More detailed research now has shown that it could be much older, dating to around 205 B.C. The mechanism is a mechanical  device constructed of bronzed gears and has display dials. This instrument pre-dates any other similar technology by about 1,000 years. 

The Antikythera Mechanism is currently housed in the Greek National Archaeological Museum in Athens and is thought to be one of the most complicated antiques in existence.

British historian Derek Price has done extensive research on what the Antikythera Mechanism may have been used for. It is believed that the mechanism was used to predict eclipses and the positions of the sun, moon, and planets. As computer are today described as digital - the Antikythera Mechanism would best be described as being an analogue mechanical computer.

The work in establishing the age has been particularly difficult, considering that only one third of the device has been preserved. When the mechanism was discovered in 1901 as part of the cargo of a Greek shipwreck, it fell apart as it was brought up to the surface. The device was constructed out of very thin bronze. It was then mounted in a wooden frame and had more than 2,000 characters inscribed all over it. X-rays of the device have indicated that there are at least 30 different gears present in it.  Since the study started more progress has been made. More than 80 fragments of the mechanism have now been discovered.

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