Earlier this week, some may have noted the quick appearance of a new doodle from Google. First released on May 17th, it honors the 115th anniversary of the discovery of the Antikythera mechanism or what some call the world’s “first analog computer”.
This amazing piece of technology, now just a rusty remnant, was rediscovered back in 1902 by a Greek archeologist called Valerios Stais. Reports show that Stais found the mechanism as he was sifting through pieces recovered from a shipwreck. This was located on the Greek island Antikythera.
Although the mechanism was discovered among the remains of a wrecked Roman cargo ship, it got its name from the island where it was detected. Initially, the archeologist believed he found a simple gear or wheel.
The Antikythera Mechanism: A Complex System Coupled with an Interesting History
The Antikythera mechanism is more complex than might seem at first glance. It is based on 30 sophisticated gears, all housed in a case probably made out of wood and bronze. No larger than a shoebox, this mechanism nonetheless came to be considered as the “world’s first analog clock”.
Scientists build this image of the mechanism with help from 3D tomography used to generate computer models.
Google states that, “The Antikythera mechanism tracked planetary positions, predicted lunar and solar eclipses, […]. It was also probably used for mapping and navigation.”
This mechanism may have also been used to signal ensuing Olympic Games, according to Google. The shoebox-sized system came with dials on both its sides. Those on the back recorded and presented celestial cycles. The one dial on the front offered a combination of both solar and zodiacal calendar data.
Initially, the Antikythera mechanism was believed to date as far back as 85 BC. However, recent research pushed back this date to about 150 BC, making it even older. Still, scientists agree that this device, which was powered by a crank, was very much ahead of its time. Its components are about as intricate as those found in some 18th-century clocks.
Science is still analyzing this unique mechanism, which is currently resting at the National Archeological Museum in Athens, Greece.
Google explained that it decided to honor the Antikythera mechanism as it is a prime example of how a “rusty remnant” can still open “a skyful of knowledge and inspiration.”
Image Source: Wikimedia