Ancient computer deciphered

It was probably the stuff of legends. An ancient computer so complicated only the brightest and smartest of the age could use or understand it. It was able to show the position of the planets, moon and earth. On auspicious days, it could tell the future. But only after a sacrafice to the gods and three days of cleansing.

It is hard to imagine it being used anyone but high priests of the age. Quiet whispers would have told how it took a century to build, was a gift from the gods or the son god had received it because HE was the chosen one.

Either way, it was hundreds if not a thousand years ahead of its time.

The Antikythera mechanism is over 2,100 years old and dates back to 60 BC. Found 1901 in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece (near the Antikythera island), scientists figured out that it was used to show the position of the planets and moon. But over the last 12 years, they have finally cracked the inscriptions written inside – such as what the color of an eclipse may mean for the future.

Antikythera mechanism - the ancient computer
Antikythera mechanism – the ancient computer

The front side of section A of the Antikythera mechanism

This ancient computer consists of over 30 gears made of bronze and which drove seven hands at different speeds. These hands may have represented the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn along with the sun and moon. A separate clock and rotating painted ball may have represented the moon phase.

All together, it is a seriously complex piece of engineering for its age and probably took tens if not a hundred years to make. And if you were a worried soul, you may wonder what befell of the captain of the ship to have lost such a valuable treasure.


Antikythera Machine mechanical model, 2007 replica. Pic from Wiki Commons Mogi Vicentini 2007

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