Researchers find Antikythera mechanism, world’s oldest computer is much older than earlier thought

Found from a shipwreck off the coast of Greece in 1901, the world’s oldest computer system, the Antikythera Mechanism, has been found to be very old and already obsolete by 85 BC, when it was initially thought to have first been made and used, The Westside Story reports.

Researchers from the University of Puget Sound devised a system to calculate the actual dating of the “computer system” and found that the equipment was much older than earlier thought. James Evans, a physics instructor at the University of Puget Sound and Christian Carman, a former lecturer at the University of Quilmes, Argentina, earlier believed the Antikythera shipwreck to have occurred off the coast of Greece between 85 BC and 60 BC; but studying the equipment and ancient Babylonian records documenting eclipses, they found the 85-60 BC dating couldn’t have been correct.

“Evans and Carman arrived at the 205 B.C. date using a method of elimination that they devised. Beginning with the hundreds of ways that the Antikythera’s eclipse patterns could fit Babylonian records (as reconstructed by John Steele, Brown University) the team used their system to eliminate dates successively, until they had a single possibility,” says Puget Sound University website.

The scientists found that ancient Greeks told eclipses based on Babylonian arithmetical systems and never with the trigonometry system, and cross-referencing this insight with actual Babylonian records of eclipses, the researchers found that the Antikythera Mechanism must have been designed and used anywhere from 50-100 years before the 85-60 BC timeline earlier believed.

This brings another fact to light: the Greeks adopted the Babylonian mathematical techniques to produce the Antikythera Mechanism because the Greeks trigonometry hadn’t been created at that time. So this suggests that the “computer system” was already very old and nearly obsolete by the time the Greeks ship using it sank between 85 and 60 BC.

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