The inscriptions and internal workings, once revealed, confirmed what many scientists had long suspected but were previously unable to prove: the Antikythera mechanism was an ingenious device for predicting celestial events. Over the next decades, additional research led to a detailed working model that included the likely functions of the mechanism’s still-missing pieces. Amazingly, the device incorporated the knowledge of ancient Greece, Babylon, and Egypt together in a single machine.
There are dials and hands on both the front and back faces of the device. The dials displayed accurate information about the date, along with the relative motions of the Earth, moon, and sun, and positions within the Zodiac. They showed the phases of the moon, accounting for irregularities caused by its elliptical orbit. They charted the motions of the five planets that were known at the time: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. They provided information about the passing of seasons, the rising and setting of major constellations and specific stars, and the periodic cycles of the original Olympiads. They even predicted solar eclipses.
The entire device operated as a mechanical computer with a hand crank that allowed the user to advance or rewind the date at will to get information about past or future celestial events. Nothing approaching this level of sophistication from this time period has ever been discovered. This, along with its advanced ability to mechanically make predictions, has earned the Antikythera mechanism the title of the world’s first computer.