Today’s Google Doodle is a special one, you see it celebrates the discovery of the Antikythera mechanism, a device that many believe is the world’s oldest computer.
Discovered in a shipwreck in the early 20th Century, the sailors who discovered it had little idea of the significance of their find.
As more parts of it were discovered it became clear that this was a highly advanced piece of machinery. Fragments of tiny bronze gears were recovered, suggesting a device of previously unheard of complexity for the time.
It wasn’t until recently however, and the development of X-ray and CT scans that archaeologists were able to understand the true complexity of what they’d found.
What is the Antikythera mechanism?
At the time of its use, around 60 BCE the Antikythera mechanism was rectangular object, around the size of a shoebox, and contained around 30 interlocking gears.
It’s believed that the ancient greeks used the mechanism to track the movements of the Sun, the Moon and the stars. It was even able to predict eclipses and displayed the schedule for the Olympics.
Why is it called the world’s oldest computer?
Like a modern computer or calculator, the Antikythera mechanism was designed to let a person input a series of variables and then in return it would provide you with information.
An example would be that you could turn the dial to a particular date and the mechanism would be able to tell you the position of the Sun without the need for complex calculation.
What makes the Antikythera mechanism so fascinating isn’t so much what it can do rather when it was able to do it.
It just wasn’t believed possible that a device this technologically advanced could have existed 2,000 years ago.
Indeed after the Antikythera mechanism historians can’t find anything anywhere near as advanced for at least 1,500 years.
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It wouldn’t be until the 1600s that large mechanical clocks would start to appear in Medieval churches.
While it’s believed that the Antikythera mechanism was ‘mass produced’, there are still not record of any other devices existing. However, archaeologists haven’t given up hope.
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