A very interesting article in Ars Technica today – a look back at 50 years ago to the time when IBM created the mainframe that helped send man to the moon. It’s incredible how things have changed since then, and almost unimagineable what the next 50 years will bring us.
System/360 machines were crucial for NASA’s Apollo missions. “Apollo flights had so much information to relay, that their computers had to report in an electronic form of shorthand,” IBM says. “Even in shorthand, however, it took a circuit capable of transmitting a novel a minute to get the information to NASA?s Manned Spacecraft Center?now the Johnson Space Center?in Houston, Texas. Receiving this enormous amount of data was a powerful IBM computer whose sole task was to translate the shorthand into meaningful information for Apollo flight controllers. The IBM System/360 computer absorbed, translated, calculated, evaluated, and relayed this information for display. It was one of five System/360 machines used by NASA for the Apollo 11 mission. The same System/360 computer that processed the data for the first lunar landing from 240,000 miles away in Houston also calculated the liftoff data needed by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin to rendezvous back with the command module piloted by Michael Collins for the flight back to Earth.”