What Is Antikythera Mechanism, World’s First Analog Computer?

Scientists have been fascinated for long by the complex mechanism of Antikythera, a 2000+ year old version of an analog computer. Recently, researchers from University College of London seems to have cracked the code. Let’s learn more about Antikythera and its role in ancient astronomical events.

Crux of the Matter

Is It 2000 Years Old?
 Yes. Called the oldest example of an analogue computer, It is an ancient Greek hand-powered orrery or a mechanical model of the Solar System

What’s Great About It?
Dated back to 87 BC, it was used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses decades in advance. It could also track the 4 year cycle of athletic games which was similar to an Olympiad– ancient Olympic Games.

How Do We Know About It?
It was first discovered in a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera in 1901. But the discovered fragments made up just one-third of the whole device.

In 1959, Princeton science historian Derek J. de Solla Price gave a through analysis. Apparently, the main gear moved to represent the calendar year. The smaller gears represent the motions of the planets, sun, and moon.

Complete Design Discovered Now?
As per Scientific Reports journal,  London researchers have recently claimed to recreate the design of the device, from the ancient calculations used to create it.

Built In Instruction Manual
Koine Greek writing at the back of the mechanism suggests the inventor left either instructions for how to work it or an explanation of what the user was seeing. 

Who Made It?
Inventor of Trigonometry and ancient astronomer, Hipparchus. New research though shows the handwriting of 2 different people on Antikythera.

  • Ada Lovelace is credited to be the world’s first computer programmer. She is the daughter of notable poet, Lord Byron.
  • Charles Babbage, the creator of the world’s first mechanical computer, is often regarded as the “father of computer”.
  • The world’s first electronic digital programmable computer was named Colossus, developed by British codebreakers. It was used to decipher cryptic German messages during World War II.