[FPSPACE] Ancient Astronomical Computer - PBS, April 3 2013 at 9 pm EDT

David R. Woods drwoods at stny.rr.com
Sat Mar 30 11:19:08 EDT 2013

Ancient Computer

A Greek shipwreck holds the remains of an intricate bronze machine that 
turns out to be the world's first computer.


In 1900, a storm blew a boatload of sponge divers off course and forced 
them to take shelter by the tiny Mediterranean island of Antikythera. 
Diving the next day, they discovered a 2,000 year-old Greek shipwreck. 
Among the ship's cargo they hauled up was an unimpressive green lump of 
corroded bronze. Rusted remnants of gear wheels could be seen on its 
surface, suggesting some kind of intricate mechanism. The first X-ray 
studies confirmed that idea, but how it worked and what it was for 
puzzled scientists for decades. Recently, hi-tech imaging has revealed 
the extraordinary truth: this unique clockwork machine was the world's 
first computer. An array of 30 intricate bronze gear wheels, originally 
housed in a shoebox-size wooden case, was designed to predict the dates 
of lunar and solar eclipses, track the Moon's subtle motions through the 
sky, and calculate the dates of significant events such as the Olympic 
Games. No device of comparable technological sophistication is known 
from anywhere in the world for at least another 1,000 years. So who was 
the genius inventor behind it? And what happened to the advanced 
astronomical and engineering knowledge of its makers? NOVA follows the 
ingenious sleuthing that finally decoded the truth behind the amazing 
ancient Greek computer.

Airing April 3, 2013 at 9 pm on PBS

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