Antikyfer's computer

Antikyfer's computer appeared to mankind in 1900, when six sponge hunters hit a storm in the Mediterranean, lost their way and anchored off the islet of Anticafer, near Crete. When they began to dive, instead of sponges they found a wrecked ship, which lay at a depth of 50 meters from 76 BC. The Greek government equipped an expedition to carry out a risky operation to raise what was left of the ancient ship. To raise his remains hired the same divers. They managed to pick up a lot of pottery, statues and other artifacts from the bottom of the sea, including what is now known as the "antikyfer’s computer" or the "mechanism from Anticiphera." At first this discovery was ignored, because it looked like a few rotten pieces of wood. And only when the tree dried up and began to disintegrate, the archaeologist Spiridon Sties noticed a metal gear embedded in one of the wooden fragments. It happened on May 17, 1902.

Antikyfer's computer appeared to mankind in 1900, when six sponge hunters hit a storm in the Mediterranean, lost their way and anchored off the islet of Anticafer, near Crete

At more detailed research it has appeared, that the antikyfer’s computer represents fragments of the counting device for astronomical calculations. His discovery led historians to take a fresh look at the technological capabilities of the ancient Greeks who designed it. This is not only the first in the history of the analog computer, but also the oldest surviving mechanism with a gear. It even used a differential gear, although it was previously thought that it was invented only in the 16th century.

The mechanism of the unusual antikyfer’s computer in its original form consisted of 32 conjugated bronze gears, placed in a wooden case. Most of it is not preserved, but what remains is seriously damaged. However, the fragments found were sufficient to allow scientists to assume that this is a counting mechanism driven by a rotary knob and rotating gears, which made it possible to calculate the motion of Moon, Sun and planets in relation to other stars for a certain time cycle. A fragment of the text, preserved on one of its parts, is nothing more than a "parapegma" - a lunisolar calendar of correspondences between the positions of stars and meteorological phenomena.

However, it was possible to understand the principle of the antikyfer’s computer only after it was subjected to an X-ray tomograph in 1971. Then only managed to count the number of teeth on each gear and to guess how many of them should have been on the missing or damaged ones. At the same time, detailed drawings of the antikyfer’s computer were created and models were produced on them. In 1974, a historian from Yale University, Derek de Salla Price published a detailed report on the study of the antikyfer’s computer. Having finally established the exact number of teeth and how the gears mated with each other, he was able to determine the correspondence of each disc to a specific celestial body using mathematical methods. He also published another study in which he came to the conclusion that the antikyfer’s computer was created by the Greek astronomer Geminus of Rhodes somewhere around 87 BC, that is, 10 years before shipwreck. In this case, Derek de Solla Price was based on the fact that some inscriptions on the mechanism are almost identical to the text contained in one of the books of Geminus. However, this conclusion contradicts the well-established opinion that in the period under consideration Rhodes was in decline and was no longer that brilliant scientific center that he once was. In connection with these disagreements arose even a version of the extraterrestrial origin of the antikyfer’s computer.