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Antikythera Mechanism: New Light Shed On The 'World's Oldest Computer' (VIDEO)

Posted: 05/12/2012 11:41 am Updated: 05/13/2012 1:25 am

Antikythera Mechanism

A new BBC Four special follows an international team of scientists trying to unlock the mysteries of the Antikythera Mechanism, a mechanism regarded as the world's oldest computer.

"[The Antikythera Mechanism] rewrites the history of technology," said Tony Freeth, one of the scientists studying the 2,000-year-old device.

Discovered more than 100 years ago in a Roman shipwreck for which it was named, the device was used by the Greeks to "predict solar eclipses and calculate the timing of the ancient Olympics," according to the BBC feature on the ancient device.

"This device is extraordinary, the only thing of its kind," Mike Edmunds, another member of the research team, previously told The Guardian. "In terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa."

The BBC special follows the team of scientists currently working to analyze the intricate details of the Antikythera Mechanism through comprehensive computer imaging. With X-ray photos from 3,000 different positions, they were able to render a digital copy of the computer.

Looking directly into the world's oldest computer, Freeth described it as "a new world."

Using the digital model, they found 27 gears, but estimate that the complete mechanism likely held 50 to 60 gears. Now, they are tackling the problem of how it works.

Though the hour-long special is available online only for residents of the U.K., head over to the BBC to see a video clip of the special.

Learn more about the Antikythera Mechanism in the video gallery below.

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  • Virtual Reconstruction

    This virtual model points to key parts of the device and how it worked.

  • History Of The Device

    This video may answer some questions about how the device was discovered.

  • Working Model

    Curator Michael Wright shows his working model of the device.

  • Tribute

    A tribute video created by Swiss clockmaker Hublot and filmmaker Philippe Nicolet.

  • New Interpretations

    Experts discuss new interpretations of the 2,000-year-old device

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Filed by Chris C. Anderson  |