Thursday, 23 June 2011

Every Home Should Have One

From UniverseToday : Build Your Own Apollo 11 Landing Computer

Remember the computer on the Apollo 11 Eagle lander that kept reporting “1201″ and “1202″ alarms as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin approached landing on the Moon?
Well, yes, I can. But people under 40 cannot. That's most of the people on the planet...
Well, now you can have one of your very own. Software engineer John Pultorak worked 4 years to build a replica of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), just so he could have one. And then he wrote a complete manual and put it online so that anyone else with similar aspirations wouldn’t have to go through the same painstaking research as he did. The manual is available free, but Pultorak says he spent about $3,000 for the hardware.

The 1,000 page documentation includes detailed descriptions and all schematics of the computer. You can find them all posted on Galaxiki, downloadable in pdf. format (the files are large).
The original Apollo AGC cost over $150,000. It didn’t have a disk drive to store any software, and only 74 kilobytes of memory that had been literally hard-wired, and all of 4 Kb of something that is sort of like RAM.

It was developed by the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory and it a pretty piece of hardware in the 1960s, as it was the first computer to use integrated circuits. The AGC mutlitasking operating system was called the EXEC, it was capable of executing up to 8 jobs at a time. The user interface unit was called the DSKY (display/keyboard, pronounced “disky”); an array of numerals and a calculator-style keyboard used by the astronauts to communicate with the computer.

Each Apollo mission featured two AGC computers – one in the Apollo Command Module and one in the Apollo Lunar Module.

And to feed your inner Space Administrator Geek... there's Race Into Space, a freeware port for Windows of BARIS - "Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space" (1993), itself a port of the Dead-Tree Game "Liftoff" (1989).

Looking at the specs... you could port this onto most mobile phones today.
640k RAM
12 MHz processor
32Mb for the videos
320 x 200 pixel resolution

That's about 500 times as powerful as the actual computers used in the Apollo spacecraft, 24 years earlier.


Buck said...

Wow, thank you for this! What an incredible find.

Carolyn Ann said...

Very cute! :-)

As I was reading your post, Zoe, I remembered someone had built a Shuttle simulator cockpit in their home. Here it is:

I also remember someone mentioning they were going to build a Mercury simulator - in a large trashcan! But I can't find any reference to that, so perhaps I just imagined that?

Oh, you can buy a book about the computer

Or the history of the computers (I thought this one was pretty good!)

And there's one about the whole systems operation; it's not as dry as you might think!

Bedtime reading for geeks... I remember the moon landing; it was one of those moments you just never forget, even though I was only 5!

Angel said...

Aww, he cheated... he substituted static RAM for core! LOL

Just looking at the photo brings back a lot of memories... I haven't wire-wrapped anything in ages!

Anyway, thanks for the link! :)