Computers are my copilot: Six machines that might help you get there

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Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Marsyas; click for full size

Not for navigation after all

When the so-called Antikythera Mechanism was fished out of a 1st century BC Greek shipwreck in 1901, archaeologists were baffled by its possible use. The Mechanism appeared to be a clockwork device, with gears comparable to those used in modern clocks. One of the early speculations was that it was a sort of navigational computer for the Greek ship that carried it.

In the years since, though, this theory has been discounted. If you think about it, thousands of ancient boats made it to port safely without any mechanical computers -- and the boat the Mechanism rode on sank! Hardly an endorsement. Scientists -- who have actually reconstructed much of the device -- now believe that it was an elaborate calendar system designed to keep track of the movements of the stars and planets.

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