The Greek civilisation has fascinated people all over the world, with its rich set of myths, monuments, and machinery. People have credited several inventions to the Greeks, some of them being philosophy, democracy, geometry, Olympics, and even the alarm clock. As it turns out, we have to thank the Greeks for the invention of computers as well.
Computers have always been considered a modern concept, but a recent discovery has raised the possibility that the first computer was made centuries ago by the Greeks. The discovery of a Greek shipwreck in 1900, near the tiny Mediterranean island of Antikythera, had uncovered various treasures, including bronze and marble statues. Among them was an intricate bronze machine which initially looked like a corroded bronze lump with rusted gear wheels on its surface.
Later research on it revealed that it might very well be the first analog computer ever made, capable of predicting solar and lunar eclipses, the Moon's motions in space, and also Olympic Games' dates.
The device consists of an array having 30 bronze gear wheels, kept in a wooden case the size of a shoebox. This Antikythera mechanism has been assigned a date of origin between 150 and 100 BC. Scientists have revealed that a device belonging to such an ancient age and having such scientific intricacy has never been seen before.
In a documentary by NOVA, the discovery of the shipwreck and its marvellous treasures are detailed. Research by Derek de Solla Price, in 1974, shed more light on the fascinating computer. He observed that a gear on the device had 127 teeth. He also found the number 235 on the device, which was significant in Greek astronomy.
It was concluded that the bronze wheels kept track of celestial objects and tracked movements through the sky. It was based on the Greek theories of astronomy and mathematics. A scientific object of likewise intricacy has never been discovered from that era, the closest being 1000 years later than this.
The mechanism had been lost a few years after its invention, keeping the world away from this technological advancement for a long time. The next advanced scientific objects made were the mechanical astronomical clocks in Europe in the 14th century.
The ancient computer is now displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where several of its artistic reconstructions are also housed. Although the corrosion levels are high, scientists have concluded that the device is made of a low-tin alloy of bronze, with instructions written in Koine Greek.
Scientists have succeeded in making working models of the device, helping them to understand the mechanism better. Several of them came to the agreement that prime numbers bear a special significance in the construction of the device, reflected in the number of gears and number of teeth on the gears.
Jacques Cousteau and his associates investigated the site of the shipwreck in 1976, recovering coins dated between 76 and 67 BC. It is speculated that Roman soldiers were attempting to carry away the treasures from Greek when the shipwreck occurred.Several of Archimedes' machines are said to be related to the discovery near Antikythera, which is said to have an intelligent understanding of our cosmos.
Several of Archimedes' machines are believed to be related to the discovery near Antikythera, which is said to have an intelligent understanding of our cosmos.