By Bethany Shepard 1:44 am PST

When we think of early computers, we may recall the towering machines that were ubiquitous with the 1970s and 1980s. Those who go further into the history of computers may assert that the first was Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace’s Analytical Engine. The modern history of technical evolution demonstrates a steady march toward the high-tech environment in which we now live. This may change, however, as a result of a recent discovery on the Greek island of Antikythera.

Around 120 years ago, a crew of divers discovered what seemed to be a centuries-old wreckage. Numerous items were discovered on the ocean bottom during the wreckage examination. Among these riches were sculptures, vases, coins, and other things related to antiquity. Among all of them, one stuck out as a single rusted bit of metal. These divers had no idea what they were about to discover: the first part of a long-forgotten gadget.

The first group of researchers who examined the gadget discovered that it included gear wheels, which caught them off guard. Previously, it was believed that the ancient Greeks were incapable of using gear-based devices. However, it was discovered that the gears located inside what would become known as the “Antikythera Mechanism” were precisely manufactured. With teeth measuring almost a millimeter in length, the intricate architecture of this device captured the minds of historians and anthropologists for years.

Additional research indicates that this contraption is around 200 years old and capable of forecasting the movement of celestial objects in the night sky. It follows the sun, moon, and even planets’ cycles against the backdrop of the starry sky using its bronze gear wheels. It could even be wound forward by a handle to a maximum of ten years, enabling it to forecast the locations of celestial bodies within that ten-year time frame.

Computer-generated front panel of the Freeth model. (Photo: wikipedia)

Tony Freeth, a professor at the University of London and one of the principal investigators of the Antikythera Mechanism, has revealed his opinions on the machine’s function. He believes that this contraption was an effort by the ancient Greeks to develop a calculating machine capable of responding to contemporary scientific ideas.

The machine is now housed at a museum in Greece. There have been 82 pieces discovered so far, with many more still missing. During the 1970s, the gadget was scanned by an ex-ray in an effort to gain a better understanding of how it functions. They discovered that the mechanism featured what seemed to be dozens of gears and wheels.

Tony Freeth and his colleagues expanded on this by using a 3D X-Ray gadget. This provides a far more thorough look into the device’s many gears. Each of the 82 shards was examined and discovered to have minuscule Greek inscriptions indicating the machine’s original usage. These inscriptions attest to the device’s usage in predicting eclipses and the moon’s changing motion.

An ‘exploded’ view of the Antikythera mechanism. © Tony Freeth/UCL

There have been many efforts to duplicate this gadget, with the earlier ones concentrating on the mechanism’s rear. Now, Tony Freeth and his colleagues are attempting to create a comprehensive model of the gadget from front to back. Not only that, they are already developing plans to completely replicate the machine using period-appropriate construction methods.

While the Antikythera Mechanism is a technological wonder, it is not the only one. Experts feel that similar gadgets may be buried under the Mediterranean Sea’s hundreds of shipwrecks. These kinds of discoveries provide us with an alternative perspective on technology to the one we now have. Although humans have achieved significant technological improvements, these accomplishments might be lost as time goes on. The Antikythera Mechanism was one of these lost artifacts of history that has been reintroduced to its proper place.