The name of its mechanism was given by the island of Antikythera, the area where it was discovered in 1900. The researchers then could not believe their own eyes, removing the relic from the sunken ship disappeared in the depths of the Aegean Sea long ago. Judging by the coins found on the ship, it was built about 100 BC. But in terms of complexity level, the mentioned mechanism corresponded no less than to the New Time!
Probably a genius lived in ancient Greece, whose thoughts were ahead of the era. It’s amazing that later craftsmen of that time tried to recreate the Antikythera Mechanism, however such accuracy could not be achieved in a thousand years. Specialists who studied it from century to century came to the conclusion that authorship can belong to Posidonius, astronomer and philosopher from the island of Rhodes, the teacher of the famous Cicero. Cicero himself told about such a device created by Archimedes. Other scientists suggest that the astronomer Hipparchus put his hand to creating the “calculator”.
The first relatively successful attempt to reconstruct the Antikythera mechanism was in 1959 by Derek Price. With help of the talented watchmaker John Gliva, he managed to build a copy of the device with a differential transmission.
Only in the middle of the 20th century Greek scientists, together with British and American colleagues, managed to reproduce the external appearance of the ancient finding and establish its purpose finally. In 2005, a research team headed by Professor Mike Edmunds, within the framework of the project Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, deciphered almost all the inscriptions on the ancient finding.
What the ancient Greeks were doing at their “computer”
It turned out that there was a mechanism for determining the start date of the Olympic Games. Archaeologists believe that it was available in all major settlements where the athletes lived. Of course, it chose the day not in a random way: the device had to count the four-year cycle with high accuracy. For this, in turn, it was necessary to determine the motion of celestial bodies.
The Antikythera Mechanism not only calculated the positions of the Sun and the Moon, it also calculated the time of the eclipse (both solar and lunar), but also covered all known planets of that time (ancient Greeks had knew about Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Venus and Jupiter). Presumably with its help it was found that the lunar orbit has an elliptical shape. And with such a functional, the use of the Antikythera mechanism has spread to other games. With its help, the cycles of the Delphic competitions and games in Corinth were considered. A modern person could accept this device for an antique calendar, although it was not everyone’s ability to use it properly.
Ancient computer science lesson: how the 2000-year-old computer works
A few dozen miniature gears were extraordinarily accurately fitted to each other. One movement of the handle – and the mechanism is running! On the front dials one could see the days of the year and the signs of the Zodiac. Management was carried out by the same handle, with the help of which the researchers set the desired date. As a result, the Antikythera mechanism produced a lot of interesting astronomical information.
Front and rear walls showed how the celestial bodies are located, and black and white ball tells what phase the Moon is in.
On one of the dials you could see when the solar and lunar eclipses begin. The mechanism showed a cycle of 223 lunar months, called “saros”, and during this cycle the eclipses are repeated with a certain periodicity. Another dial will help to familiarize with the Methonic Moon Cycle.
Such plenty of data was drawn by the ancient Greeks from the device, which managed to overtake the development of technology for a thousand years ahead! If you think about it, the Antikythera mechanism really reminds the computer with the possibilities of obtaining useful data with its help.