As any of my close friends would tell you, I am very proud of my Greek heritage, and as a result, I sometimes go overboard with my opinion about how different the world would be had Ancient Greece never fallen. But I’m not here to discuss the hypothetical ‘What if’ scenario today. Oh no, today I’m talking about the little known, yet major discovery of what is known as the Antikythera Mechanism, mankind’s first computer (well, if you define computer as “an instrument used for complex calculations and computations” rather than something you can hook up to your bud’s wireless connection).
Discovered in 1900, just off the island of Antikythera by a sponge diver, the Antikythera Mechanism at first appeared to be an odd, misshapen lump of corroded bronze gears housed in a decaying wooden box (the size of a shoebox, no less) believed to have been from some time between 87 BC and 140 BC. But at that time, mankind supposedly didn’t have the knowledge of how to create complex gear works.
By the way, I know that it doesn’t look like much, but there happen to be around 30 separate gears just in the fragment we have surviving today, each of which was hand crafted in a time before automated machinery.
So what exactly is it, and why should we care? Well, it’s an analog computer that may have been built around two thousand years ago (!), and the machine, when it was complete, could reproduce the movements of the sun, moon, and planets for the purposes of both stellar navigation on a cloudy night, as well as calculate the exact positions of the major stellar bodies at the time of one’s birth (a “science” that still exists in a much watered down form called Astrology). Oh, and it predates the grandfather clock… well, really any clockwork clock for that matter. This, and machines like it, are what led to the future development of clockwork gears!
There’s a little History Smile for the day, not to mention something fun to bring up at your next dinner party. After all, if this ancient computer hasn’t put Antikytheria on the map yet… well, even modern computers can take a while to load.