“State of the Art” From a 21st Century Vantage Point

The Apollo Guidance Computer

The Apollo Guidance Computer

The super-sophisticated, miracle machine of the 20th century was the guidance computer for the Apollo rockets. This technological marvel made it possible for manned flight to and from the moon.

Developed by MIT in the 1960’s, it was one of the first integrated-circuit devices. It had a clock speed of 2.048 MHz — about one one-thousandth the speed of an iPad. The memory available for storing functions for guidance, navigation and control of the lunar spacecraft was only 2k.  That’s maybe just enough space to store a Word document in which you wrote “2k.” The read-only storage capacity was slightly larger at 32k.

Since every ounce of weight necessitated additional fuel, the computer had to be light and compact. It weighed in at 70 pounds (compared to the roughly one-pound iPad).

Despite its limitations in comparison to 21st century technology, the Apollo guidance computer was more than sufficient to make history by allowing mankind to break free to terrestrial barriers for the first time.

Just imagine the snickers people in 2159 will be making about the “primitive” technology we use in 2014!


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