How the Ancient Greeks invented the laptop computer over 2,000 years ago – and why.
There’s a lot of competition for the title of Inventor of the modern laptop computer. But one thing is confirmed – the Greeks had a computer small enough to hold on a person’s lap more than 2,000 years ago.
The Antikythera Mechanism, discovered in 1900 in a Greek ship wrecked in the first-century BCE, is a delicately designed and extremely precise astronomical computer.
Careful reconstructions of the device demonstrate that a knob on the side of the foot-high wooden frame turned more than 30 small bronze gears to adjust the circular displays on the front and back of the box. These displays showed several bits of information important to the ancient Greeks: zodiacal alignments; phases of the moon; yearly calendar; sun position; positions of the five known planets; eclipse cycles; even the schedule for the Olympic games.
The Mechanism was part of a trove of ceramics, glass work, marble and bronze statues, and other treasures being shipped across the Mediterranean to Greek colonies on the Italian peninsula.
While some Greek aristocrat or merchant stood on the shore waiting for his stuff to arrive, his ship was dashed against the jagged shore of the island of Antikythera and his treasure made a date with the twentieth century. His loss, our gain, and history (of the laptop at least) has been rewritten.
Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.
3 little-known ancient computer facts:
- Many ancient Greek computer users were addicted to the Angry Gods game app.
- Early computer sales tanked when consumers realized that “486” stood for the last year BCE the PC would be usable.
- Unfortunately, Greek civilization fell before delivery of the a-Pad – Antikythera’s much-anticipated handheld media device.
Chris Everheart is author of the thriller