I recently found myself re-watching a documentary on the BBC iPlayer about the Antikythera Mechanism. The mechanism is, in both intricacy and accuracy, amazing. And it caused for some, a complete rethink in the history of technology and history of science. It’s mind blowing how much can turn on a single discovery. The mechanism was discovered in a shipwreck amongst a large number of other finds. It was only after significant investigation that its complexity, and it possible purpose were revealed. It is in one literal sense – a computer. While it could perhaps be said that stone circles could in a sense be computers too since they are literally devices used for astronomical calculation (according to some theories) – this is perhaps a much more recognisable as one – in the same sense as the Analytical Engine of Babbage. I’d highly recommend anyone in the UK to get over to the BBC website and check it out - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01hlkcq/The_TwoThousandYearOld_Computer/ - and my apologies to international readers who can’t view it. It really is an amazing story of an incredibly artefact. And for all those steampunk authors, writers and readers – maybe your imaginings are a little closer to reality than you thought. Maybe not much, but just a little.
Reflections: The Antikythera Mechanism.