To mark the discovery of the world’s first known analogue computer, Google today celebrates Antikythera mechanism’s 115 years through its doodle. The doodle shows how a forgotten piece of computer history can help us know more what our predecessors made.
From the quality and complexity of the mechanism’s manufacture, it suggests that it was made during the Hellenistic period — the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and the conquest of Egypt by Rome in 30 BCE.
The Antikythera mechanism was discovered in 45 metres of water in the Greek island of Antikythera. The wreck was found in April 1900 by a group of Greek sponge divers, who retrieved numerous artefacts including, bronze and marble statues, pottery, unique glassware, jewellery, coins and the mechanism.
The Greek analogue computer and a clockwork model of the solar system was used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendrical and astrological purposes and even signaled the next Olympic Games.
Computer models based on 3-D tomography have revealed more than 30 sophisticated gears, housed in a wooden and bronze case the size of a shoebox. The mechanism was initially dated around 85 BC, but recent studies suggest it may be even older (circa 150 BC).
All known fragments of the mechanism have been kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, along with a number of artistic reconstructions.