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Ancient Greek Computer Reconstructed

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the old-made-new-again dept.

Technology 266

afaik_ianal writes "A working reconstruction of an ancient Greek computer, the Antikythera mechanism, which was found at the bottom of the ocean in 1900 has been unveiled and is on display at the Technopolis museum, in Athens. The device is believed to have been used to calculate the positions of various celestial bodies including the sun and the moon on any given date. While some guesswork was required in the reconstruction, the bulk of the design is based on updated X-ray photographs of the device."

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First Greek Post (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842065)

Alpha and the Omega and all that.

Re:First Greek Post (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842178)

Yet another redundant moderation for the first post on a discussion? Where did the mods go to school? Greece?

Re:First Greek Post (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842241)

Well, until they get around to implementing that "-1, Stupid" flag, I guess we're stuck with either that or "Offtopic."

And to someone who's meta-moderating later and won't know that the post was a FP, "Redundant" seems more believable.

Re:First Greek Post (1)

Brian4120 (897336) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842388)

Look at that. i never thought in my lifetime i would see a +3 funny on a first post.
time to go kill myself.

Re:First Greek Post (4, Funny)

rlanctot (310750) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842398)

Just imagine, a Beowulf cluster of these... er, wait. Was Beowulf written at that time? Dammit!

But (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842066)

Does it run Linux?

Re:But (3, Funny)

toupsie (88295) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842074)

or support Ogg Vorbis?

Re:But (5, Funny)

MiKM (752717) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842087)

No, but a NetBSD port is nearing completion.

Re:But (0, Redundant)

Jozer99 (693146) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842507)

Imagine a beowolf cluster.

Re:But (5, Funny)

Lillesvin (797939) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842099)

Apparently, yes... "Spyridon Stais noticed that one of the pieces of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it." (from wikipedia [wikipedia.org] ).

That's KDE, baby! :-p

Re:But (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842153)

Does it run Linux?

No, but there is a Troyan Horse already.

Re:But (1)

SuperDJ (809957) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842297)

Not yet, but remember, Doom has to be ported to it first.

imagine, if you will, (1)

weighn (578357) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842354)

...a Beowulf cluster of these...

Doesn't anyone remember ... (5, Funny)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842068)

... the clockwork owl in Clash of the Titans?

Clearly the ancient Greeks had mechanical technology beyond even modern capabilities!

Re:Doesn't anyone remember ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842115)

Pffft... (2, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842118)

Clearly the ancient Greeks had mechanical technology beyond even modern capabilities!

HAH! That's NOTHING! What you must see, is their Orichalcum robots! [nyud.net]

Re:Doesn't anyone remember ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842132)

Man, I used to love that movie when I was a kid. The owl was so cool. I got kind of a funny feeling when the girl was helplessly chained to the rock and in danger of being devoured by a monster. o_O

Re:Doesn't anyone remember ... (-1, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842385)

The kind of "funny feeling" you got when "uncle eddy" fondled your nutsack? Or the kind of "funny feeling" you got when you watched the mail man fuck your mom? Or the kind of "funny feeling" you got when you first saw the goatse man?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Re:Doesn't anyone remember ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842508)

Maybe it was the "funny feeling" he gets when he chains girls up and leaves them to die.

Re:Doesn't anyone remember ... (1)

zennor (802932) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842265)

I was hoping to forget it!!

Re:Doesn't anyone remember ... (1)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842291)

OMFG, didn't you pay attention?! The Gods made the clockwork owl! c'mon we know that the Greek Pantheon of Gods is more sophisticated than we are today.

Wait! What if this computer were actually made by the Gods?? Maybe we now have irrefutable proof of their existence! Take THAT Greek God-Biatches, not so omniscient now are you? ARE YOU?!

Celestial OS. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842079)

Let me guess. It was running SkyOS?

They don't build them like they used to (5, Insightful)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842081)

"The Antikythera mechanism, as it is now known, was originally housed in a wooden box about the size of a shoebox, with dials on the outside and a complex assembly of bronze gear wheels within."

Anyone place odds on our gold and copper monstrosities from the 70's on surviving thousands of years and people figuring out what they were used for? There's something to be said about elegantly simple one use devices like calculators.

Re:They don't build them like they used to (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842467)

Anyone place odds on...monstrosities from the 70's on surviving thousands of years and people figuring out what they were used for?
Sadly, disco lives.

Additionally, unless there is some global cataclysm, clients will continue using their POS big iron (and not just to heat certain rooms or throw confounded tape I/O errors, baffling modern man).

Re:They don't build them like they used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842487)

Anyone wanna place odds on intelligent life existing for a couple thousand more years?

At least a 100 years ago. (1, Informative)

Negroiso (892386) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842082)

I saw a documentary on this on the Discovery channel at least a 100 years ago. I suppose now its just "traveling". They have had this thing running for a while.

Re:At least a 100 years ago. (5, Funny)

ludomancer (921940) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842248)

You saw this thing on the Discovery channel in 1905? Clearly your Clockwork Greek Television was ahead of it's time!

Re:At least a 100 years ago. (1)

Mahou (873114) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842551)

check out the date of TFA

Sep 19th 2002

Can it run Linux? (n/t) (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842093)

This is very nice but can it run Linux.

Probably slashdotted soon... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842094)

Here's the text:

The Antikythera mechanism
The clockwork computer

Sep 19th 2002
From The Economist print edition
An ancient piece of clockwork shows the deep roots of modern technology

WHEN a Greek sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck of a cargo ship off the tiny island of Antikythera in 1900, it was the statues lying on the seabed that made the greatest impression on him. He returned to the surface, removed his helmet, and gabbled that he had found a heap of dead, naked women. The ship's cargo of luxury goods also included jewellery, pottery, fine furniture, wine and bronzes dating back to the first century BC. But the most important finds proved to be a few green, corroded lumps--the last remnants of an elaborate mechanical device.

The Antikythera mechanism, as it is now known, was originally housed in a wooden box about the size of a shoebox, with dials on the outside and a complex assembly of bronze gear wheels within. X-ray photographs of the fragments, in which around 30 separate gears can be distinguished, led the late Derek Price, a science historian at Yale University, to conclude that the device was an astronomical computer capable of predicting the positions of the sun and moon in the zodiac on any given date. A new analysis, though, suggests that the device was cleverer than Price thought, and reinforces the evidence for his theory of an ancient Greek tradition of complex mechanical technology.

Michael Wright, the curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum in London, has based his new analysis on detailed X-rays of the mechanism using a technique called linear tomography. This involves moving an X-ray source, the film and the object being investigated relative to one another, so that only features in a particular plane come into focus. Analysis of the resulting images, carried out in conjunction with Allan Bromley, a computer scientist at Sydney University, found the exact position of each gear, and suggested that Price was wrong in several respects.

In some cases, says Mr Wright, Price seems to have "massaged" the number of teeth on particular gears (most of which are, admittedly, incomplete) in order to arrive at significant astronomical ratios. Price's account also, he says, displays internal contradictions, selective use of evidence and unwarranted speculation. In particular, it postulates an elaborate reversal mechanism to get some gears to turn in the right direction.

Since so little of the mechanism survives, some guesswork is unavoidable. But Mr Wright noticed a fixed boss at the centre of the mechanism's main wheel. To his instrument-maker's eye, this was suggestive of a fixed central gear around which other moving gears could rotate. This does away with the need for Price's reversal mechanism and leads to the idea that the device was specifically designed to model a particular form of "epicyclic" motion.

The Greeks believed in an earth-centric universe and accounted for celestial bodies' motions using elaborate models based on epicycles, in which each body describes a circle (the epicycle) around a point that itself moves in a circle around the earth. Mr Wright found evidence that the Antikythera mechanism would have been able to reproduce the motions of the sun and moon accurately, using an epicyclic model devised by Hipparchus, and of the planets Mercury and Venus, using an epicyclic model derived by Apollonius of Perga. (These models, which predate the mechanism, were subsequently incorporated into the work of Claudius Ptolemy in the second century AD.)

A device that just modelled the motions of the sun, moon, Mercury and Venus does not make much sense. But if an upper layer of mechanism had been built, and lost, these extra gears could have modelled the motions of the three other planets known at the time--Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. In other words, the device may have been able to predict the positions of the known celestial bodies for any given date with a respectable degree of accuracy, using bronze pointers on a circular dial with the constellations of the zodiac running round its edge.

Mr Wright devised a putative model in which the mechanisms for each celestial body stack up like layers in a sandwich, and started building it in his workshop. The completed reconstruction, details of which appeared in an article in the Horological Journal in May, went on display this week at Technopolis, a museum in Athens. By winding a knob on the side, celestial bodies can be made to advance and retreat so that their positions on any chosen date can be determined. Mr Wright says his device could have been built using ancient tools because the ancient Greeks had saws whose teeth were cut using v-shaped files--a task that is similar to the cutting of teeth on a gear wheel. He has even made several examples by hand.

How closely this reconstruction matches up to the original will never be known. The purpose of two dials on the back of the device is still unclear, although one may indicate the year. Nor is the device's purpose obvious: it may have been an astrological computer, used to speed up the casting of horoscopes, though it might just as easily have been a luxury plaything. But Mr Wright is convinced that his epicyclic interpretation is correct, and that the original device modelled the entire known solar system.
The Greeks had a word for it

That tallies with ancient sources that refer to such devices. Cicero, writing in the first century BC, mentions an instrument "recently constructed by our friend Poseidonius, which at each revolution reproduces the same motions of the sun, the moon and the five planets." Archimedes is also said to have made a small planetarium, and two such devices were said to have been rescued from Syracuse when it fell in 212BC. This reconstruction suggests such references can now be taken literally.

It also provides strong support for Price's theory. He believed that the mechanism was strongly suggestive of an ancient Greek tradition of complex mechanical technology which, transmitted via the Arab world, formed the basis of European clockmaking techniques. This fits with another, smaller device that was acquired in 1983 by the Science Museum, which models the motions of the sun and moon. Dating from the sixth century AD, it provides a previously missing link between the Antikythera mechanism and later Islamic calendar computers, such as the 13th century example at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. That device, in turn, uses techniques described in a manuscript written by al-Biruni, an Arab astronomer, around 1000AD.
Advertisement Click here to find out more!

The origins of much modern technology, from railway engines to robots, can be traced back to the elaborate mechanical toys, or automata, that flourished in the 18th century. Those toys, in turn, grew out of the craft of clockmaking. And that craft, like so many other aspects of the modern world, seems to have roots that can be traced right back to ancient Greece.

Is it a computer? (5, Insightful)

TeacherOfHeroes (892498) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842101)

I'm torn between marveling at the enginuity behind this and pointing out that this is really bluring the line between 'computer' and 'glorified watch'. Even the wikipedia article it links to describes this as a clockwork mechanism.

When the title reads 'ancient greek computer', I would expect something more along the lines of the machine that Babbage designed.

Re:Is it a computer? (1)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842162)

No one said it was programmable.

Re:Is it a computer? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842174)

The parent comment has a good point. If a computer is simply any man-made device that takes information and makes it more recordable, calculable, or accessible, then this device qualifies, as well as any mechanical watch, or any magnifying glass for that matter.

Presuming that one could have wound this device forward, to see future positions of these planets, I would argue that one can do that with the minute hand of many mecanical clocks.

OTOH, I don't know of any mechanical (sprocket and gear) clocks that predate this.

Pedantically speaking, however, a sundial would meet the above explanation, in that light rays/particles hit contrived designs on a sundial, from which pattern one can determine the time of day.

a) 45+2=1 for qualified values of 1.
b) Is language prescriptive and/or descriptive and all that...
c) how much of the meaning of your life your life life depends on how you define, "meaning"?
d) more or less pedantic blah.

Re:Is it a computer? (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842175)

You're right -- it's a computer that caculates a single problem. OTOH, if the greeks who built this lived on another planet, they could take the same principles and build another device that calculated the positions of those planets. Yet again, this isn't a general planetary positioning device, it just shows the future positions of *particular* planets.

I'm coming down on the side of 'glorified watch.' Just wind it up and watch it go. No programming, no modularity, no general problem solving. Certainly nowhere near a Turing machine.

Re:Is it a computer? (4, Informative)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842317)

It's a single-problem solving analog computer of the classic, pre-Turing sense. They used to have all kinds of crap like this for solving various problems. Easier (at the time) (and probably cooler) than a book filled with lists. Not a Turing complete machine by any sense... more like the ABC device that people are always claiming was the "first computer," than an ENIAC.

Re:Is it a computer? (4, Interesting)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842323)

"No programming, no modularity, no general problem solving."

Programming was done by selecting and arranging gears. Modularity was accomplished by adding layers, coupling the shafts from one layer to another. I'd even go so far as to say that it's general purpose in the sense of an "Erector Set".

Differential gears make this device far more interesting than any other mechanical clockwork I've ever seen.

My computer's just a glorified watch too... (4, Funny)

Errandboy of Doom (917941) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842339)

Well, I also use it to read /. But the watch part is far more productive.

Re:Is it a computer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842252)

we all know it ran linux... I mean why else would there be an os that was so secure... it's been around forever.

Re:Is it a computer? (5, Insightful)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842262)

"Even the wikipedia article it links to describes this as a clockwork mechanism."

But then it goes on to explain:

"The device is all the more impressive for its use of a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century."

It's far more sophisticated than a clockwork. Call it what you want, but it is a significant discovery in the history of analog computers.

Re:Is it a computer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842530)

Not all computers are programmable.

and was used (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842102)

for watching ancient Greek porn.

thats really interesting (-1, Flamebait)

shoelessone (924433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842103)

why dont i call my mother, maybe she'll be really interested. I mean, I'm really interested, really. I care. My mother just might care more. Or my little sister. Or dog.

/. - Home of the Dupe (1)

TheStonepedo (885845) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842120)

It was not a celestial tracking device but rather A Clock That Runs For 10,000 Years [slashdot.org] ... or until the ship transporting it through the Bermuda Triangle capsizes and re-appears in Ancient Greece.

Re:/. - Home of the Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842292)

Funny, in arguement I recently had with someone about The Clock of the Long Now they link to this article [giant.net.au] (apparently to support there claim it would never last). First time i had heard about it. Now this. It's like god is a clockmaker, setting everything in motion... and building lots of crazy clocks.

wtf? (0, Offtopic)

shoelessone (924433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842133)

who ever just fucking modded me down is gonna get their ass beat, i use linux, and its secure as all fuck, so i'll probably hack you soon. 3 shoelessone

FIRST P0ST! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842136)

FIRST P0ST!

Re:FIRST P0ST! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842206)

Quit modding me down! So what if I am happy that I can try to make the first post?

Re:FIRST P0ST! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842342)

Ya! Damn the man! Seize your destiny!

Like dodgy software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842143)

Excellent, they built it but they are not sure what it does. I have written software like that.

Actually... (5, Funny)

Evil Butters (772669) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842152)

...which was found at the bottom of the ocean in 1900...

Actually, it was found in 2000. Just that no one thought to correct for Y2K problems!

Non-troll mirror (4, Informative)

loraksus (171574) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842154)

(notice the date, not quite "news")

The Antikythera mechanism
The clockwork computer

Sep 19th 2002
From The Economist print edition
An ancient piece of clockwork shows the deep roots of modern technology

WHEN a Greek sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck of a cargo ship off the tiny island of Antikythera in 1900, it was the statues lying on the seabed that made the greatest impression on him. He returned to the surface, removed his helmet, and gabbled that he had found a heap of dead, naked women. The ship's cargo of luxury goods also included jewellery, pottery, fine furniture, wine and bronzes dating back to the first century BC. But the most important finds proved to be a few green, corroded lumps--the last remnants of an elaborate mechanical device.

The Antikythera mechanism, as it is now known, was originally housed in a wooden box about the size of a shoebox, with dials on the outside and a complex assembly of bronze gear wheels within. X-ray photographs of the fragments, in which around 30 separate gears can be distinguished, led the late Derek Price, a science historian at Yale University, to conclude that the device was an astronomical computer capable of predicting the positions of the sun and moon in the zodiac on any given date. A new analysis, though, suggests that the device was cleverer than Price thought, and reinforces the evidence for his theory of an ancient Greek tradition of complex mechanical technology.

Michael Wright, the curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum in London, has based his new analysis on detailed X-rays of the mechanism using a technique called linear tomography. This involves moving an X-ray source, the film and the object being investigated relative to one another, so that only features in a particular plane come into focus. Analysis of the resulting images, carried out in conjunction with Allan Bromley, a computer scientist at Sydney University, found the exact position of each gear, and suggested that Price was wrong in several respects.

In some cases, says Mr Wright, Price seems to have "massaged" the number of teeth on particular gears (most of which are, admittedly, incomplete) in order to arrive at significant astronomical ratios. Price's account also, he says, displays internal contradictions, selective use of evidence and unwarranted speculation. In particular, it postulates an elaborate reversal mechanism to get some gears to turn in the right direction.

Since so little of the mechanism survives, some guesswork is unavoidable. But Mr Wright noticed a fixed boss at the centre of the mechanism's main wheel. To his instrument-maker's eye, this was suggestive of a fixed central gear around which other moving gears could rotate. This does away with the need for Price's reversal mechanism and leads to the idea that the device was specifically designed to model a particular form of "epicyclic" motion.

The Greeks believed in an earth-centric universe and accounted for celestial bodies' motions using elaborate models based on epicycles, in which each body describes a circle (the epicycle) around a point that itself moves in a circle around the earth. Mr Wright found evidence that the Antikythera mechanism would have been able to reproduce the motions of the sun and moon accurately, using an epicyclic model devised by Hipparchus, and of the planets Mercury and Venus, using an epicyclic model derived by Apollonius of Perga. (These models, which predate the mechanism, were subsequently incorporated into the work of Claudius Ptolemy in the second century AD.)

A device that just modelled the motions of the sun, moon, Mercury and Venus does not make much sense. But if an upper layer of mechanism had been built, and lost, these extra gears could have modelled the motions of the three other planets known at the time--Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. In other words, the device may have been able to predict the positions of the known celestial bodies for any given date with a respectable degree of accuracy, using bronze pointers on a circular dial with the constellations of the zodiac running round its edge.

Mr Wright devised a putative model in which the mechanisms for each celestial body stack up like layers in a sandwich, and started building it in his workshop. The completed reconstruction, details of which appeared in an article in the Horological Journal in May, went on display this week at Technopolis, a museum in Athens. By winding a knob on the side, celestial bodies can be made to advance and retreat so that their positions on any chosen date can be determined. Mr Wright says his device could have been built using ancient tools because the ancient Greeks had saws whose teeth were cut using v-shaped files--a task that is similar to the cutting of teeth on a gear wheel. He has even made several examples by hand.

How closely this reconstruction matches up to the original will never be known. The purpose of two dials on the back of the device is still unclear, although one may indicate the year. Nor is the device's purpose obvious: it may have been an astrological computer, used to speed up the casting of horoscopes, though it might just as easily have been a luxury plaything. But Mr Wright is convinced that his epicyclic interpretation is correct, and that the original device modelled the entire known solar system.
The Greeks had a word for it

That tallies with ancient sources that refer to such devices. Cicero, writing in the first century BC, mentions an instrument "recently constructed by our friend Poseidonius, which at each revolution reproduces the same motions of the sun, the moon and the five planets." Archimedes is also said to have made a small planetarium, and two such devices were said to have been rescued from Syracuse when it fell in 212BC. This reconstruction suggests such references can now be taken literally.

It also provides strong support for Price's theory. He believed that the mechanism was strongly suggestive of an ancient Greek tradition of complex mechanical technology which, transmitted via the Arab world, formed the basis of European clockmaking techniques. This fits with another, smaller device that was acquired in 1983 by the Science Museum, which models the motions of the sun and moon. Dating from the sixth century AD, it provides a previously missing link between the Antikythera mechanism and later Islamic calendar computers, such as the 13th century example at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. That device, in turn, uses techniques described in a manuscript written by al-Biruni, an Arab astronomer, around 1000AD.
Advertisement
[0]

The origins of much modern technology, from railway engines to robots, can be traced back to the elaborate mechanical toys, or automata, that flourished in the 18th century. Those toys, in turn, grew out of the craft of clockmaking. And that craft, like so many other aspects of the modern world, seems to have roots that can be traced right back to ancient Greece.

Re:Non-troll mirror (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842214)

Well, the current /. article isn't really about the device itself, it's actually about the unveiling of a new working reconstruction of the device, based on X-ray imagery of the original.

So while I'm sure most of the discussion will be about the ancient invention, the article does have a (albeit thin) excuse for its own existence on the front page today: the particular event of the unveiling of the reconstruction. That's the "news," the rest is just background, and as you've pointed out, has already been reported.

Re:Non-troll mirror (2, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842324)

No, the "current" /. TFA is dated September 19th, 2002. Just a few more years and it'd be the Antikythera article. There's no unveiling taking place this week. It was unveiled three years ago.

That said, it's still a cool device. Creating a mechanical clockwork that recreates an earth-centric viewpoint of the planetary motion is a remarkable feat in virtually any age.

look guys, seriously (0, Offtopic)

shoelessone (924433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842165)

hey, honestly guys, i have a really fast computer. so seriously, plz stop this modding down shit. because shit negro, i mean, a man needs to post on slashdot, or he might not get teh ladiez, u know? anyway, this honestly was a pretty interesting article. Lots of good history about rome. i mean, thats such a sweet country, rome. I hear they have great pasta. my mom always forgets to rinse the pasta when she makes spagehti. that dumb cunt.

Fo Shizzel. (-1, Offtopic)

z3usy (240291) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842170)

Yo man, dem Greeks got da mad bling bling!@#

Fo Shizzle.

listen (1, Offtopic)

shoelessone (924433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842191)

you guys dont know shit about computers. I go to colege. Do you guys know what colege even is?

here is what I do: attend a very prestigous school, where there is a shit ton of smart fuckers. A-Z-Ns. Do you guys even know what those are? Because I once slept with one. Ok, yes, she was a little drunk. Ok, maybe I shouldn't have. But the point remains: I know a lot about computers. Whats more, i'm greek. So I know a TON about greeks+computers. Gyros. Do you guys even know what those are? Let me tell you, they are really incredibly good. Lamb meat. OMG, so good. I love it. Go greek computers!

Re:listen (4, Funny)

nekoes (613370) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842202)

Greek computers have the fastest processors. No shit. I read it on slashdot.

Re:listen (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842211)

OK. So you joined a gay fraternity. Big deal. You're not Greek, you're a drunk loser that can't accept the loss of your high school years so you join a house of gays, have sex with sluts, and pretend to be Greek. Let's hear it for the frat rats.

Re:listen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842590)

I go to a somewhat prestigious university. Here, we already know that college has two l's.

Presenting the device (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842195)

"While some guesswork was required in the reconstruction, the bulk of the design is based on updated X-ray photographs of the device."

Reporter: So what do you think the device is for?
Archaeologist: Well we can't be entirely sure, but if you look at this X-Ray you can see what appears to be a cup-holder.

Dupe (1)

airrage (514164) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842222)

No, mega-dupe! Did I just coin a phrase!?!

OT: Re:Dupe (1)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842421)

I believe you can only coin a phrase if you explain to people what exactly that term means. Otherwise it's just an expression in words/sound ;)

I bet it ran Windows, Millenium Edition no less (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842226)

That old, if you extrapolate Moore's law backwards it just had to be a two-bit computer....

hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842231)

I wonder how much ram it had? or did they use slaves to power it?

Greek? (2, Interesting)

tono (38883) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842236)

If the wikipedia article is right, that the clockwork was produced in 87BCE then the clockwork was actually Roman, as the whole of modern and ancient Greece was under Roman control at that time. Also, it's not a computer, it's a damn clockwork.

Re:Greek? (2, Informative)

jericho4.0 (565125) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842379)

The Greeks ended as an empire in 146 BC, when Rome defeated the Achaean League and and razed Cornith as a final gesture of power. The end of Ancient Greece is usually considered the death of Alexander the Great, 323 BC.

It isn't a computer, though.

Ancient technology (1)

Gary Destruction (683101) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842253)

Better tell Daniel Jackson so he can translate the writings. Now if we just find out where the Stargate is.

Re:Ancient technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842357)

It's sitting on the far side of that shark.

Re:Ancient technology (1)

drwho (4190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842435)

Damned Stargate geeks...I am becoming addicted to that show. Just watched '1969' for the second time. You know, Daniel does look pretty good with those tiny glasses and his hair slicked back.

But yeah, the ancients...Merlin was one...Do you think Jesus was a goa'uld?

Re:Ancient technology (1)

EtherealStrife (724374) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842577)

Come on man, keep up! The Stargate is buried in Egypt, not Greece. The Greeks are the ones with the giant death rays [slashdot.org] ...

this just in (5, Funny)

coredump-0x00001 (922856) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842255)

The Linux kernel has been successfully ported to the Antikythera mechanism, The highly distilled version of the kernel reportedly can boot in under 160 years and the process also effectively builds large amounts of forearm muscle in the process. Linuxworld.com calls it the perfect marrige between grassroot technological history and modern innovation, Steve Jobbs is currently preparing to manufacture a mini version of the Antikythera mechanism which will eventually make it's way into every Apple product. Microsoft has called the Antikythera mechanism the most astonishing technologinal innovation the world and microsoft have ever seen, Bill Gates said in an interview, "It's changing the way we have looked at computer technology completely, throughout the entire reign of microsoft we have never even considered this master-designed technology!"

Re:this just in (1)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842455)

Yeah, but does it run Doom?

Other Greek versions of the Antikythera mechanism (5, Funny)

macshune (628296) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842470)

If the Antikythera mechanism was made by different outfits in ancient Greece:

Apollo: The mechanism would be highly polished in a mahogany box with an observation window that would crack due to poor workmanship and high profit margins. Device only works within a 10 sq. mile area around Athens. Anywhere else and it's off.

Microsofticus: The mechanism would be essentially the same as the original, except some planets would be in different locations for 'efficiency' and 'because it runs faster that way.' Pebbles would bounce into the device via conspicuous holes and users would have to purchase a security contract from Symanticus. Not recorded in historical literature because nobody knew how it worked. Re-assembly from rusty bits required legions of scientists.

Zeus Microsystems: The mechanism would be painted purple and lilac and probably have some confetti around a highly stylized Sun logo on the outside. Giant purple globe in center of device would confound scientists for decades. Works, but gets slower with every passing decade, even though the underlying architecture is salvagable.

Linux Maximus: Device was buried with engineering diagrams in air-tight, humidity-controlled box at Delphi. Instructions for re-assembly (which it doesn't need) are also recorded within the device itself in every language known at the time as well as with pictures. Does what it needs to do and little else. Also, device was heavily cited in the historical literature and anyone was free to build one as long as they had access to commmodity blacksmith parts. Can be modified to suit different galactic locations, as well, with little effort.

Hewletticus-Packardus: Originally a papyrus-ink outfit, H.P., decided to get into the astronomy business because its archon, Sappho, wanted to. Ended up building poor version and purchased Compacticus to try and fix things. Didn't happen and Sappho went to Lesbos to become a poet with a zillion Drachma severence pay and H.P. just had to deal.

Navigation Aide (1)

joemontoya (704695) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842258)

If you have an accurate model of what the sky looks like, you where you are and what time it is.

Re:Navigation Aide (3, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842392)

The device you described is called an astrolabe. It's a different device, and much, much simpler. You don't need any gears to make an astrolabe, just the positions of some major stars for night observations, and of the sun for day observations. And note that with an astrolabe you either need to know "what time it is" or "where you are", and with one of those pieces of information (and an astrolabe) you can find the other.

This clockwork planetary displaying device is (today) properly called an orrery, although it predates the Earl of Orrery by about 18 centuries. It also predates the astrolabe by about a thousand years, too.

Not that you can't use an orrery to occasionally tell the date, but much of the time you won't have enough information to get a valid reading. It's completely useless during the day, and even at night some of the planets are usually "too near" the sun to be visible. Occasionally, the planetary alignment is such that none of the "visible" planets can be seen for weeks at a time.

Also note that an orrery doesn't necessarily provide "altitude" information. I'm unaware of any hand-held clockwork orreries that do (including modern ones.) While you can base the date on azimuth readings of the planets, many of them move so slowly across the night sky that it could be difficult to make an accurate reading; especially with the tools of 87 B.C. The fixed stars are much easier to locate, and altitude is much, much easier to read than azimuth (gravity is a much easier reference to use than some concept of north.)

Translation of 'linked by Slashdot' message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842260)

'This article has recently been linked from Slashdot.
Please keep an eye on the page history for errors or vandalism.'

This page has just been linked to by Slashdot, keep an eye on those dodgy characters.

yeah but... (0, Redundant)

majest!k (836921) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842264)

does it run apache?

This proves that... (4, Funny)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842267)

the greeks were geeks. :P

Re:This proves that... (1)

jangobongo (812593) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842361)

So you're saying that they are the original founders of the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity [imdb.com] , then, hmmm?

Re:This proves that... (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842484)

If you are a self-proclaimed geek or nerd and you haven't seen this movie, then you are a failure as geek or nerd. :)

MOD PARENT FUNNY (1)

ShakiirNvar (904354) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842578)

ROFL, IMO the parent post should be modded funny :)

YAY! (1)

distantbody (852269) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842273)

YAY! no images.

Uh... looka t the date? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842286)

Has anyone else noticed that the Economist article linked is from 2002?

Love the Wikipedia "Warning" (2, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842287)

Does anyone else find it slightly amusing that Wikipedia stamps a big warning across the page as soon as it gets Slashdotted? Complete with a warning to look out for trolls? I'm sure it's not new, but I guess I've just always ignored it in the past.

It's brilliant. Maybe we should include one at the top of every /. article from now on.

On a sidenote, wouldn't it make sense to link to the static version of a Wikipedia entry page, rather than the top / dynamic one? I guess it would detract from the whole editable purpose of Wikipedia, but in terms of providing a reference -- which is what this article is using it for -- it seems like it would be safer to link against a static page of a specific revision, and then let people see the newest version if they wanted to.

Of course if they did that, we'd never get to see their 'Do Not Feed The Trolls' warning.

Re:Love the Wikipedia "Warning" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842443)

You must not have seen the defacing child's play that some slashdotters do to a page. I've read slashdot for several years and while I'm sure it is the minority that do this, I have seen one too many vulgar defacings of wikipedia pages recently after being linked from slashdot. Slashdot, you have turned into a urinal for society. Good bye!

I'm not sure since I usually don't RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842510)

This was the first time I noticed it too, but I remember an article on the wikipedia - I think after a /., it was about the commodore64 and the article body was hacked, yet so appropriately highly informative.
It was something like: [Teh elite computar numbar 1!!] and some other stuff. haha. I loved it.
When I reloaded there was a whole page of 'real' article, the condensed version was so much better, well, if you already knew about the c64....

Re:Love the Wikipedia "Warning" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842519)

Notice that the edit history mentions the blog, Slashdot.

Ancient Greece vs the US (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842298)

People in Ancient Greece over two thousand years ago had many things the US and other Western countries claim to have invented much later. Everything from democracy, theater, architecture, clocks, mechanical toys, Hero's heat engines, sport competitions, etc. Not only they knew that the Earth was round, they even managed to measure its diamemeter. They are the fathers of mathematics, which is the mother of all knowledge. Ancient Chinese and Egyptians had bits and pieces of mathematical knowledge but they failed to grasp the big picture and unlike the Greeks did not develop any axiomatic system or the concept of a mathematical proof.

Truly an amazing people, I think they had the greatest impact on world culture, much greater than the Romans, Assirians, Sumerians, Chinese, Japanese or any other old or modern civilization (including the American civilization).

Sure today's Greeks are not the same as the Ancient Greeks. Nevertheles I feel sad when Modern Greeks are made fun of by other peoples (including Americans).

By the way I am not Greek or related to any Greek folks.

Beware of geeks bearing gifts... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842302)

How long before someone writes a Trojan horse for it?

Clockwork virii? (1)

Errandboy of Doom (917941) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842438)

Funny, but raises an interesting question: could a clockwork device have security flaws?

Greek computer reconstruction images (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842306)

In fact, CmdrTaco was the first owner of the computer [64.255.42.168] !

Ptolomy's Almagest - first programming spec? (5, Interesting)

Captain Sensible (141639) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842353)

My guess is that its an analogue conputer, but there is a good chance that its a clock.

If you are familiar with Ptolemy's "Almagest" you know he models the solar system as a series of epicycles. Until Copernicus' time (and after) European and Arab teaching was that these mechanisms were the physical reality but Ptolomy never actually endorsed that view. What if the "Almagest" was the specs for a dedicated astronomical computer and the Antikythera mechanism is the implimentation?

Then again...clocks became simpler over the centuries. Our modern clocks only show hours, minutes, seconds and perhaps the date. Mediaeval clocks showed years, months, weeks, days and hours as well as planetary positions, seasons, and solar and lunar eclipses. Their mechanisms were more complex than mechanical clocks and watches (remember them?) produced in the 20th century. Mechanical clocks built in the 1970s were more accurate but less complex than mechanical clocks built in the 1270s in Europe. Clocks built in earlier centuries in Arab lands were equally complex. The Antikythera mechanism could have been just one in a line of astronomical clocks.

Re:Ptolomy's Almagest - first programming spec? (1)

necrostopheles (865577) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842560)

Except the wiki article linked to in the post says the Antikythera mechanism dates from 87BC. Another wiki article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almagest [wikipedia.org] puts the Almagest at CE 150. That has the implementation preceding the specification by almost 240 years.

nigger (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842369)

NIGGERS AND SHIT

luxinx sucks

neal is fat

old news (2, Interesting)

kahrytan (913147) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842389)

This might be old news but it is just a reminder that people from ancient times were not stupid. The people around Mediterranean were smart and understand how things work.

Also make note of Heron of Alexandria. A great Greek inventor who invented machine gun, steam power, vending machine and many other mechanical machines.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero_of_Alexandria [wikipedia.org]

That proves it (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842400)

All these adventure games with ancient mechanical things --- I always knew that wasn't fantasy.

Pity there are no pictures in the Article.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842474)

No wireless. Less space then a Nomad. Lame.

Next, do the Shroud of Turin! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13842563)

"Found" in an unverifiable location, check.

Mysterious properties steeped in legend or too advanced for time period, check.

Fudged "reconstruction" based on second-hand (instrumental) data, check.

All the earmarks of a hoax. Nothing to see here, move along.

Ouch... (1)

Kickboy12 (913888) | more than 8 years ago | (#13842610)

I can see the smoke coming from the wikipedia servers from here. Damn.
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