Digital Apollo

Apollo cover

According to Canadian comedy troupe, The Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, the computer on Apollo manned spaceflight missions had, “no mouse, and a plain text-only black-and-white screen, and 32 kilobytes of RAM.”

While technically true, every bit of that 32KB was fine-tuned to perform under the most dire of situations, just like the LM’s human occupants. While a few errors popped up in the computer systems on several of the flights, notably Apollo 11 and 14.

On Apollo 11, the computer actually rebooted a few times due to insufficient memory, though the astronauts were never aware this was happening as each restart was incredibly fast and managed to keep pertinent systems running all the while.

On Apollo 14, a small ball of solder broke loose from something and bounced around in Zero-G causing havoc with some of the electrical systems.

For quite a long time now, most of the emphasis on the moon landings was placed on the men who went there and came back, and rightly so, their bravery in the face of an uncertain outcome can barely be matched. But what this book does is while it does focus a bit exclusively on the computer component of the spaceflights, it also gives a bit of background on the people who made those computers.

The subtitle for this book is “Human and Machine in Spaceflight” and it shows it on every page. In all this book is a brilliant history of the NACA/NASA space flights, from the X-15 tests all the way through to the last Apollo missions.

MIT Press page for Digital Apollo.

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2 Responses to “Digital Apollo”

  1. I thought this was a really neat project – this guy has built a replica of the Apollo Block I computer in his basement! It powers on and runs through all the test procedures and everything. http://agcreplica.outel.org/

  2. Bradley Hall Says:

    Oh sweet! I was actually planning on seeing if someone emulated the Apollo computer system, but this is even better!

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