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Meet the 2000 Year-Old Computer
« on: 23. December 2008., 20:17:37 »

The Antikythera mechanism, believed to be the world's oldest computer, has finally been replicated by a British museum curator, more than 100 years after it was first discovered. The original design, intricate and precise as a Swiss clock, was used to calculate dates, motions of the planets throughout our solar system and eclipse dates, all with a device the size of a small box. The working prototype that was recently built is based entirely on the artifacts that were discovered a century ago.

The bits and pieces of the device were discovered in close proximity to the Greek island of Antikythera, in 1902, stacked together in an odd-looking lump of metal. From the very beginning, its discoverers were puzzled at the level of craftsmanship that the object, dated as being built around 150 BC, displayed. Historians argued at the time that such level of detail in construction was not encountered until a millennium later, around the year 1,000, when humankind evolved to the point where it designed more complex metal works.

Michael Wright, the British museum curator who rebuilt the Antikythera, says that the new replica incorporates all the known features of its ancient predecessor, and that the model is constructed entirely out of recycled metal plates, as it would have been built 2 millennia ago. So, in addition to being the world's first astronomical computer, the instrument is also the first “green” one.

Inside the simple enclosure, there are numerous wheels and mechanisms that allow for a precise calculation of the movement of the stars, based on Greek astronomical models. It was also used to store dates of the Olympic Games, as it possessed three dials, on which planet movements, the Sun-Lunar cycle (spanning 19 years), and eclipses (in 76 year-long cycles) were predicted accurately.

The news that Wright managed to rebuild the ancient device came as a shock to the scientific community, as researchers have been struggling to recreate the intricate mechanisms inside the Antikythera for a long, long time. The curator even managed to reconstruct the small wheels that compensate for unusual behavior in planet orbits, which allow the device to be extremely accurate.

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Meet the 2000 Year-Old Computer
« on: 23. December 2008., 20:17:37 »


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