Scientists may have cracked the code for ‘world’s oldest computer’

Researchers believe they may have solved the mystery behind a 2,000-year-old astronomical calculator – otherwise described as being the world’s oldest computer.

Scientists may have cracked the code for ‘world’s oldest computer’

By Ross Andersen

The Antikythera mechanism has long been a scientific mystery since it was discovered on an ancient shipwreck in 1901. While scientists have studied the Antikythera mechanism for decades, only now does the research show promising results.

The device was used in ancient Greece to predict certain astronomical events, using a mathematical equation that would align the mechanism’s gear wheels in place.

Now researchers at University College London (UCL) believe they may finally be one step closer in understanding how the Antikythera mechanism managed to predict astronomical events with such accuracy.

“Using an ancient Greek mathematical method described by the philosopher Parmenides, the UCL team not only explained how the cycles for Venus and Saturn were derived but also managed to recover the cycles of all the other planets, where the evidence was missing,” according to a press release published by UCL.

A paper published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports revealed a new display of what scientists believe what the device looked like and how it was constructed.

“The Sun, Moon and planets are displayed in an impressive tour de force of ancient Greek brilliance,” said the paper’s lead author, professor Tony Freeth.

Only a third of the device survived the shipwreck, splitting it into 82 pieces, and making it nearly impossible for scientists to untangle not only how the mechanism worked but also what it could have looked like.

Despite two-thirds of the original device having been lost, researchers are able to use modern materials such as 3D modelling and X-rays to recreate the device, its gears and nearly its entire front panel in hopes of developing a full scale replica of the Antikythera.

“Ours is the first model that conforms to all the physical evidence and matches the descriptions in the scientific inscriptions engraved on the Mechanism itself,” said Freeth.

The ancient mechanism is also described as the world’s first analog computer. Upon its discovery, the bronze was hardly recognizable as its exterior was corroded from the shipwreck.

According to another recent analysis, published in 2020, researchers discovered evidence that the mechanism’s front-dial ring is a 354-day lunar calendar, opposed to a 365-day calendar as previously suggested. The front dial of the mechanism features a movable calendar ring with three Egyptian month names engraved in ancient Greek.

The study further explains that the findings have the potential of resolving several outstanding issues in literature, potentially furthering our understanding of the calendars of Ancient Egypt. 

“Our finding that the Antikythera mechanism did not have a 365-day calendar as previously thought, presents an important and exciting challenge to the research community. We have presented clear data regarding a fundamental attribute of the machine that is verifiably different to what was long held to be true, and this of course leads to a cascade of interesting and exciting consequences for a considerable portion of the research,” Chris Budiselic, co-author of the paper told Friday.

ULC researchers are using what little evidence exists of the ancient world’s oldest computer to solve other past scientific mysteries.

They believe the work will bring them closer in understanding how ancient Greeks were able to construct other advanced technologies that were thousands of years ahead of their time.

Originally published at Ctv news