‘World’s first computer’ dated to 205 BC

2 Dec 2014

The Antikythera, considered one of the world's first examples of a computer. Image via Giovanni Dall Orto

As one of the earliest examples of what could be defined as a computer, a salvaged piece known as Antikythera is more than 100 years older than previously thought, and was believed to have originated in 205 BC.

The ancient Greek mechanism, according to Phys.org, was a modelling of the known universe during that time over two millennia ago meaning it originates during the time of one of Greece’s most well-known and respected scientists, Archimedes.

The ‘computer’ was found aboard a shipwreck off the coast of Greece at the turn of the last century, but had left its discoverers baffled as to what the heavily-encrusted device was to be used for, despite the presence of the distinctive cog at its base.

The latest information surrounding its possible use was made by two researchers who published their findings in the Archive for History of Exact Science after making numerous analyses of the Babylonian calendar and the record of eclipses which, from the dial’s reading, was able to bring its date of origin down by over a century.

This discovery has even paved the way for giving plausible cause to the story put forward by Cicero that Archimedes had created his own version of the computer not long before the Antikythera in 212 BC and following his death that year, the device was taken back to Rome.

The two researchers, James Evans, professor of physics at University of Puget Sound in the US, and Christián Carman, history of science professor at University of Quilmes, Argentina, say that the process of working through solar records and eclipses was incredibly difficult given that only one-third of the device remains on the ancient computer.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic