The Antikythera- the first analog ancient computer

Have you come across this unique discovery? Scientists in ancient days too worked on some sort of mechanical devices that could make their arduous calculations a little easier with no chance of human error.

Divers found the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient computer, in 1901 off the coast of Antikythera, a Greek island 18 miles north of Crete. Greek divers, exploring the Roman shipwreck at a depth of 42 metres actually came across 82 curious bronze fragments. At first, these pieces, thickly encrusted and jammed together after lying more two millennia on the sea floor, lay forgotten. But a closer look showed them to be exquisitely made, hand-cut, toothed gearwheels. It was clear that, within this find, 29 gearwheels fitted together, possibly making some sort of astronomical calendar. A rough replica of the device was eventually constructed and archeologists guessed that it was an astronomical calculator. But the inner workings and the device’s true nature remained unknown for 100 years.

A group of scientists from the U.K. and Greece led by Mike Edmunds, an astronomer from the University of Cardiff has deciphered the Antikythera Mechanism. According to the group’s findings published in the November 30, 2006, issue of Nature, several physical factors and the device’s reference to Hipparchos, place the mechanism between 140-200 B.C. And a complete computer model of the device has been constructed,

The Antikythera could be considered the first analog computer. The team of experts from the U.K. and Greece discovered that its system of dials and more than 30 gears is more complex than those found in medieval clocks. It suggests that the Hellenic people were much farther along technologically than scientists, historians and archeologists had assumed. The device is at least 1,000 years ahead of its time.
The inscriptions on the Antikythera Mechanism have been deciphered to reveal theories for ancient planetary positions. The mechanism was used to predict and calculate lunar and solar eclipses on the basis of Babylonian arithmetic-progression cycles. The mechanism also calculates lunar positions based on theories by the famous Greek astronomer Hipparchos for deciphering the Moon’s elliptical orbit. The machine’s ability to calculate sophisticated astronomical knowledge of the Moon’s unusual orbit surprised the scientists.

The original device is likely to have comprised 37 gear-wheels and comprised two clock-like faces, one front and one back, which would have fitted into a slim wooden box measuring 31.5 x 19 cm and a thickness of 10cms. The machine was a 365-day calendar, which ingeniously factored in the leap year every four years. It could also predict lunar and solar eclipses under the Saros cycle, a 223-month repetitive interplay of the Sun, Earth and Moon. The Machine was also a star almanac, showing the times when the major stars and constellations of the Greek zodiac would rise or set and, speculatively, may also have shown the positions of the planets. (Credit: Copyright of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project)

I wonder how little we know about what all our ancestors achieved, but the evidences of their achievements disappeared or lost because of human conflicts or natural disasters. Can’t someone some day find the remnants of vimanas used by some of our ancestors or a similar computer used by Aryabhatt or some of the weaponry that Arjun or Karna used?

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