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Posted by on Aug 27, 2012 in Hardware, Science, Software |

Computers Apollo 11 that carried Neil Armstrong to the moon

Computers Apollo 11 that carried Neil Armstrong to the moon

Interface (cc) Wikimedia

The technology of the 1960s played a key role in bringing the first men to the moon. However, as many have pointed out, the teams were less powerful than a current smartphone today. In fact would be more like a calculator.

The computer responsible for the Apollo missions was the Guiding Apollo Computer (AGC), designed by the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory and manufactured by Raytheon, and one of the first computers to use integrated circuits – considered the first “embedded system”.

The team had 2048 words of RAM and ROM 36864. The word length was 16 bits. Compared to something more current, an IBM PC XT 1981, with an Intel 8088 processor, was 8 times more memory than the AGC. A smartphone processor of 1000 MHz and 512 MB of RAM, has 100,000 times more RAM than the (which ran at about 1 MHz).

For those interested, as this guide you can build one in your house .


So archaic that one wonders how it was that this system will help three men – ( late Saturday ), and – to land on the moon. Important part has to do with the software – the operating system could multitask up to 8 tasks, normal for today but a great achievement at the time.

Multitasking not working as now. The software, called “Luminary” consisted of several sub-programs running as priority – ie, took turns to run according to the importance they had. Each program would move the data to erasable memory area (2 k) and then retire. The biggest problem for the engineers was that programs not be erased or sobreescribieran with data from another program run at the wrong time.

If many tasks requiring the computer at the same time, the system would take, or simply interrupt what I was doing at the time, launched an alarm, and then start working on something new.


The AGC was not free of errors. Nothing less than the turning point of the lunar landing, on July 20, 1969, the spacecraft instruments showed an error code “1201″ and then a “1202″. Neil Armstrong Earth consulted on this matter, and engineer Jack Garman said that at this time of the mission, the error could be ignored. Basically, the computer was overloaded with data.

Armstrong found that the automatic system was leading to a crater full of rocks, so that took manual control and landed the ship, about 6 km from the place that was originally planned.

While the AGC was guiding the astronauts in the spacecraft in Earth worked with IBM mainframes huge “360 Model 75″ for communications with the ship and the calculations required to launch the lunar module off the surface of the and send back to Earth.

Even the simplest programs today technically exceed the systems used by Apollo 11. However, the teams took the ship to the moon showed what could be achieved by working with machines, a task that humanity has not yet been overcome.

Twelve men have walked on the moon. The last mission was in 1972 with Apollo 17.

Apollo 11: The Computers That put man on the moon (ComputerWeekly)
How powerful was the Apollo 11 computer? (DownloadSquad)
Apollo Mission Software (NetJeff)
Neil Armstrong (Telegraph)

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