The computer that helped take the first astronauts to the moon was surprisingly primitive by modern standards, but NASA’s programmers were able to get a lot out of the fairly modest systems they had available. The requirements that NASA submitted to Charles Stark Draper of the MIT Instrumentation Lab were revolutionary for the time. Unlike standard computers of the day, this computer would have to have a keyboard for direct user interaction, rather than punch cards. It would need to be both more versatile and more reliable than any of its contemporaries, not to mention much smaller. Draper and his team made a computer that was not only indispensable to the Apollo mission but which also revolutionized the state of computer science and had lots of impact on modern computers.

Key Takeaways:

  • It is estimated that the brainpower that is packed in a dishwasher is much more than that powering the computer that astronauts used to get to the moon.
  • In the 1960s the engineers and scientists then had to make do with the basic computer powers that were available to them.
  • Ten weeks after President John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to get to the moon a computer that was used for the project was launched.

“NASA knew just how hard it was going to be to navigate through three-dimensional space from the Earth to the Moon: the speeds, the relative motions, the necessary precision, the math, and the speed with which all that math had to be done.”

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