When you picture an old computer, do you see a giant machine that takes up an entire room? These days, people might consider even something like a CRT monitor and a device running Windows XP to be ancient. Yet, the oldest “computer” in the world may actually be a bronze contraption found off the coast of Greece; the Antikythera mechanism, which was used to predict and track astronomical events, like the movement of the planets and occurrence of eclipses.
The Antikythera mechanism was supposedly discovered around the turn of the 20th century. Sponge divers off the coast of Antikythera, a Greek island, found it submerged in 45 meters of water, buried with other treasures, including pottery, statues, and coins. The antique device was originally dated at around 60 BC to 200 BC, but recent studies suggest a more specific timeline that places the device closer to 125 BC.
At first, the device seemed to be nothing but an old pile of bronze and wood. A closer inspection revealed that the mechanism was something quite extraordinary for its time. The Antikythera mechanism consists of bronze gears, and was designed to predict astronomical cycles. While the device was originally discovered in one heap, it was later split into three sections for study. Those who have tried to recreate it believe that, in its prime, the Antikythera mechanism consisted of up to 30 bronze gears that functioned like clockwork.
Today, the Antikythera mechanism is in 82 different pieces, each of which are being studied. In particular, the text carved into them is of interest, but highly unreadable. There are inscriptions on the gears that are so small, the human eye can’t make out what it says. Thousands of years have eaten away at it, so researchers had to use x-ray and visualization technologies in order to decipher the meaning.
At first, the Antikythera mechanism was thought to be purely scientific, but recent findings have found that it may have had a more astrological use. It’s been found that the Ancient Greeks would try to predict the colors of eclipses, which had an existential meaning for how the Greeks viewed the world around them. We can consider the Antikythera mechanism as an object that they designed to understand how the world around them worked. The device is currently on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, where it continues to be studied.
Who knew that something so advanced existed some two-thousand years ago? It makes you wonder what other civilizations came up with. We may be credited as the most technologically advanced civilization known to man, but take a moment to consider the fact that the Antikythera mechanism was advanced and high-tech for its time. In fact, this type of astronomical clock was hundreds of years ahead of its time, and the knowledge of how to build such a machine would eventually be lost until the 14th century. So, what other lost technologies are out there, waiting for us to discover them?
This may not have much to do with business, but we thought we’d share this interesting development with you. After all, as tech geeks ourselves, we love learning about old technologies that have come and gone. Did you like this article? If so, subscribe to our blog for more technology news, tips, and tricks.