An astrolabe is an ancient tool, created over two thousand years ago (150 BC) when people thought that the Earth was the center of the universe. They are often referred to as the first computer: like a computer, you input information and then you receive output.
An astrolabe (Greek: ἀστρολάβος astrolabos, “star-taker”) is an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers. Its many uses include locating and predicting the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, determining local time given local latitude and vice versa, surveying, and triangulation. It was used in classical antiquity, the Islamic Golden Age, the European Middle Ages and Renaissance for all these purposes. In the Islamic world, it was also used to calculate the Qibla and to find the times for Salat, prayers.
There is often confusion between the astrolabe and the mariner’s astrolabe. While the astrolabe could be useful for determining latitude on land, it was an awkward instrument for use on the heaving deck of a ship or in wind. The mariner’s astrolabe was developed to solve these problems.