Google on Wednesday marked the discovery of Antikythera Mechanism – believed to be the world’s first computer – 115 years ago.
In 1902, Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais sifted through some artefacts from a shipwreck at Antikythera.
The wrecked Roman cargo ship was discovered two years earlier, but Stais was the first to notice an intriguing bit of bronze among the treasures. It looked like it might be a gear or wheel.
That corroded chunk of metal turned out to be part of the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient analog astronomical computer which tracked planetary positions, predicted lunar and solar eclipses, and even signalled the next Olympic Games.
“Today’s Doodle illustrates how a rusty remnant can open up a skyful of knowledge and inspiration,” Google said.
The mechanism was initially dated around 85 BC, but recent studies suggest it may be even older (circa 150 BC).
The crank-powered device was way ahead of its time — its components are as intricate as those of some 18th-century clocks.
“It was probably also used for mapping and navigation. A dial on the front combines zodiacal and solar calendars, while dials on the back capture celestial cycles,” Google said.
Computer models based on 3D tomography have revealed more than 30 sophisticated gears, housed in a wooden and bronze case the size of a shoebox.
Historians continue to ponder the Antikythera Mechanism’s purpose and inner workings, and visitors to the National Archaeological Museum of Greece marvel at its delicate complexity.