Looking Up: Your Fob Is Fabber

Jul 15, 2019

Courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, specifically the NASA History Office and the NASA JSC Media Services Center.
Credit nasa.gov

If you have no memory of the Apollo lunar missions it's ok. Even the computers back then didn't have much memory as we learn on this week's Looking Up. 

Next Saturday marks the official 50th anniversary of our first Moon landing, Apollo 11.

And as an 11-year-old at the time, I basked in the wonder and amazement of the nation’s achievement, fulfilling President Kennedy’s call to land a man on the moon before the decade was out and returning him safely to the Earth. That’s all part of our past, but do you know how close we came to not landing on the Moon that July day?

I’ve always been fascinated by the hardware of our space program. The Apollo Guidance Computer is a wonderful part of that heritage, and at the time, was a marvel of computer engineering. But compared to the gizmos and gadgets of today, the AGC is, well, a tad slow. It had a capacity of 2048 words in its RAM, and its main memory could hold 38K. That’s not 38 gigabytes or even 38 megabytes – it’s 38K

Today, you likely have a device with you that has more computing power than did the Apollo computer. Did you guess your smart phone? Well, that’s correct, but actually, the key fob you have that locks and unlocks your car actually has more memory than did the Apollo computer. Happy Moon Landing day!  

If you’d like to take a closer look at the moon, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.