The Amazing Antikythera Mechanism: the First Analog Computer in History?
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The “Antikythera mechanism” was recovered from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1900-1901, at the precise time the city of Knossos was being excavated by Sir Arthur Evans. Its significance and complexity were not understood until a century later when it was analyzed with modern X-ray technology. Its construction has been attributed to the Hellenistic Greeks. Technological artifacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear again until the fourteenth century, when mechanical astronomical clocks were first constructed in Western Europe. Professor Michael Edmunds of Cardiff University, who led a 2006 study of the mechanism, said, “This device is just extraordinary, the only thing of its kind. The design is beautiful, the astronomy is exactly right. The way the mechanics are designed just makes your jaw drop. Whoever has done this has done it extremely carefully ... in terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa.” Illustration of the Antikythera archeological mechanism, with radiographic details of its intricate gearing system (Click to ENLARGE):
The mechanism was housed in a wooden box approximately 340 × 180 × 90 mm in size and comprised 30 (!) bronze gears(although more could have been lost). The largest gear, clearly visible in fragment A, is approximately 140 mm in diameter and has 223 teeth.
You may also wish to consult The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project. Click on the logo:
from which I draw this résumé. The Antikythera Mechanism is a Hellenistic astronomical machine with bronze gearing system, made about the second century B.C, preserved in fragments only. In 2005, new data considerably enhanced our knowledge of its functions, being as it is an instrument measuring geocentric cosmology, portraying the stars, Sun, Moon, and all five planets known in antiquity.
Here are images of the gearing system and a modern reconstruction of the truly elegant Antikythera Mechanism (Click to ENLARGE):
and again, in Scientific American 2009. Click on the logo to read the article:
Résumé: The Antikythera mechanism is a unique & highly sophisticated mechanical analog calculator from the second-century BCE. Advanced imaging tools have enabled researchers to reconstruct how the device predicted with such astonishing accuracy lunar and solar eclipses and the motion of the moon in the sky.
To read about the much earlier Minoan Disc (so-called Analog Computer) see the previous post. It is almost as mind-blowing!
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