The 2,000-year-old computer that you’ve never heard of

Have you ever heard of the 2,000 year old Antikythera mechanism? The Antikythera Mechanism as it is known, is regarded as the world’s oldest ‘computer’ and is thought to have been used to predict movements of the sun, moon and planets and record dates of the ancient Olympiad. Its remains were recovered from a Roman shipwreck off the southern coast of Greece in 1901.

The significance and complexity were not understood until a century later. The construction has been dated to the early 1st century BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity and workmanship did not reappear until the 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks were built in Europe.

What was initially dismissed as an anomaly – a rock with a cogwheel embedded in it must be so for other reasons, including much later shipwrecks – was a device with at least 30 (some say 70) gears, all precision engineered (the teeth were hand-cut equilateral triangles). The calendar dial can be moved to adjust for that inconvenient extra quarter day in the solar year.

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