2009/02/19

Book Review: Tackling the Mystery of a 2,000-Year-Old Computer

The trouble with the history of ancient civilizations is that they've left us debris, and from the piles of bits and pieces we try to reconstruct who the people really were and how they lived.

The usual line about the ancient Greeks is that they were good talkers and philosophers and sculptors and sailors but miserable scientists and technologists. Except, of course, for Archimedes, who outclassed everyone of his time in science and engineering.

Most popular historical lines about antiquity sooner or later get revised. In 1901, halfway between Crete and the Greek mainland, Greek sponge divers discovered an ancient Greek sunken ship off the rocky island of Antikythera. From that ship came statues, pottery, glassware, jewelry, coins--and also a corroded lump of bronze later separated into three corroded pieces. The pieces lay around for most of the 20th century, until in the 1970s they were subjected to x-ray analysis that shocked archaeologists and historians alike. The pieces contained the remnants of an elaborate device, a system of 30 cogwheels laid on cogwheels, and after much study the consensus decision was that the Antikythera Mechanism, as it came to be called, was in fact an ancient analog computer.

Read the rest of this interesting article at: www.huffingtonpost.com
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