Antikythera Machine: The Oldest Computer in the World

The mystery of the 2,000-year-old mechanism has finally been solved.


In 1901, a group of divers found the remains of a ship that sank off the coast of Greece in the 1st century, and among the wreckage was a strange bronze mechanism that has intrigued researchers since its discovery: the Antikythera Engine.

Researchers had already understood what the Antikythera Machine was for, but now they managed to discover how worked the mysterious two-thousand-year-old artifact, considered the First Computer in the World.

The mechanism had astronomical functions, being used to predict the positions of the Sun, Moon and planets, as well as eclipses. Despite this, it was still unknown how this primitive computer operated.


Astronomical Computer

Reconstruction of the Antikythera Machine.

Only 82 pieces of the Antikythera Machine were recovered from the seabed, which is equivalent to a third of the artifact. Thus, many questions about its operation still remained unanswered.

In the new study, researchers at University College London produced a model that attempts to faithfully reproduce the device’s mechanism.

To reconstruct the Antikythera Machine it was necessary to apply knowledge of archaeology, engineering, astronomy and mathematics. Thus, they were able to recreate the ancient astronomical computer.

“Our model is the first to be made based on all the physical evidence, matching the descriptions in the scientific inscriptions engraved on the mechanism itself”, said Tony Freeth, one of the researchers.

According to the study, a complex combination of gears was used to predict astronomical events. Movable rings and adjustable beads were used to mark the positions of the planets.