Apollo Lunar Missions' Computing Power vs. Your iPhone
【Summary】At the recent AutoMobilityLA 2-16 Auto Show, some of the world’s leading companies like Ford, Booz Allen Hamilton, Intel and others gathered to discuss the state-of-the-art trends regarding the autonomous vehicles of the future, one of scholarly presentations was that the Apollo 11 lunar mission which landed on the moon used a computer that was 1,300 times less powerful than the iPhone.
LOS ANGELES, CA. – At the recent MobilityLA 2-16 Auto Show, some of the world's leading companies like Ford, Booz Allen Hamilton, Intel and others gathered to discuss the state-of-the-art trends regarding the autonomous vehicles of the future. One of the things the elites touched upon during their scholarly presentations was that the Apollo 11 lunar mission which landed on the moon used a computer that was 1,300 times less powerful than the iPhone.
One article on the topic states:
"Essential to the lunar missions was a now ancient command module computer designed at MIT called Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC). The computer used an operating system which allowed astronauts to type in nouns and verbs that controlled their spaceship. To control the hardware, AGC had built-in machine code instructions using a compiler called Luminary. Here's how some of the code for the computer looked like when it was used for Apollo 13 and 14. While it was handy, AGC wasn't particularly powerful having 64Kbyte of memory and operating at 0.043MHz. In fact, it was less equipped than a modern toaster!"
We're also told:
"Today … even a simple USB stick or WiFi router is more powerful, let alone an iPhone. The iPhone 6 uses an Apple-designed 64 bit Cortex A8 ARM architecture composed of approximately 1.6 billion transistors. It operates at 1.4 GHZ and can process instructions at a rate of approximately 1.2 instructions every cycle in each of its 2 cores. That's 3.36 billion instructions per second. Put simply, the iPhone 6's clock is 32,600 times faster than the best Apollo era computers and could perform instructions 120,000,000 times faster. You wouldn't be wrong in saying an iPhone could be used to guide 120,000,000 Apollo era spacecraft to the moon, all at the same time."
But there's more – actually much more – to this whole scenario.In fact, one Google search uses the computing power of the entire Apollo space mission
We are told:
"We know that technology has come a far way over the years, but it's easy to forget just how far. According to Google, just one action taken on its search engine by a single user uses the computing power of the entire Apollo space missions. Since this is Google we're talking about, the company broke things down further.
"The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) on board the lunar module (LM) executed instructions at a speed of about 40 KHz (or 0.00004 GHz), about 100,000 times slower than a high-end laptop today. There was also a similar real-time computer built into the Saturn V rocket. On the ground, NASA had access to some of the most powerful computers of the day: five IBM model 360/75 mainframe computers, each about 250 times faster than the AGC. They were running nearly 24/7, calculating lift-off data and orbits, monitoring biomedical data during the mission, and performing numerous other calculations."
The posting continued:
"We compared that to what Google does today, and we found that … takes about the same amount of computing to answer one Google Search query as all the computing done — in flight and on the ground — for the entire Apollo program! It wasn't just the actual space-time that Google out-computes the Apollo missions. When you enter a single query in the Google search box, or just speak it to your phone, you set in motion as much computing as it took to send Neil Armstrong and eleven other astronauts to the moon. Not just the actual flights, but all the computing done throughout the planning and execution of the 11-year, 17 mission Apollo program."
It is hard to fathom just how far mankind has come since World War II in terms of technology. Computers have changed our lives to an almost unimaginable degree. The computers the Pentagon could only dream of in the early 1960's are now mobile appliances that billions of people are able to carry around in their pockets. This salient fact can also be summarized as "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
The moon landing in 1969 can be viewed here on Youtube.com. Check out the Apollo 17 mission here. An amazing documentary made in the 1960's about the Apollo missions' computers can be viewed here. Don't miss the latter. It's something you'll enjoy sharing with your children and your grandchildren someday.
Anthony C. LoBaido is a journalist, ghostwriter and photographer. He has worked in 53 nations around the world – from Laos to Lebanon, from Belize to Botswana and from Nepal to Namibia. He also published a book on the Kurds. Some of LoBaido’s favorite stories include attending the British Army’s jungle warfare training in Central America, retracing Lawrence of Arabia’s World War I trek through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, investigating the blood diamonds of Sierra Leone as popularized in the Leonardo DiCaprio film by the same name, meeting “CNN hero” Aki Ra at one of his landmine digs in northern Cambodia, working with Time Magazine’s “Hero of Asia” Lek Chailert on her crusade to assist injured and abused elephants in Southeast Asia, rescuing HIV/Aids throw-away babies in the garbage dumps of Cape Town, South Africa, as well as visiting a leper colony in Myanmar. LoBaido’s articles have been cited by Ivy League universities such as Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. As a photographer, LoBaido made National Geographic in 2014.
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