Apollo Program's Computer Used Rope Memory Woven By Little Old Ladies

The fact that an iPhone is four times as powerful as the Curiosity rover's onboard computer is pretty cool, but just take a look at the meagre tech the Apollo Program used to get into space. The computer was so pitiful that the software of the Apollo guidance computer was literally handwoven into its memory.

The overall memory of the Apollo Guidance Computer was equivalent to 72kb (in modern terms) and the software had to be woven into the core rope memory. Women in factories put the software together by looping wires through a core to represent the 1's and 0's of computer programs. As you can imagine, the process was extremely slow, tedious and a nightmare to put together but still... space! These things were used to go to space! Unbelievable. [YouTube]


    Bring rope drives back I say! I want a 1 metre wide spinning wheel of twine on my desk. How many episodes of True Blood do you think that could hold? :-)

    I'm still unsure how that can be translated into code...
    Is it one wire per bit?

    The LOL method(little old ladies) made me laugh(out loud).

      I realise it was a joke name and they recognise that it's not PC in this day and age, but seriously, if I was one of the women, I'd still have taken offence...They don't look very old at all!!!

    Maybe your average smartphone has far more power and memory, but those systems look about a thousand times more resilient. Probably withstand a hell of a lot of vibration, disasters, accidents, overloads... Stuff that'd turn any phone into smouldering crap.

      Yeah, they HAD to work. Don't want the equivalent of the BSOD on the way to the moon. The instructions were hard coded, as I understand, so that they could be sure that each entry would do the job it was supposed to.

        They did have the equivelent of a BSOD while landing on the moon. Armstron had to take control and manualy land it.

    72kB not 72kb - does anyone know the difference between bits and bytes? (No, it doesn't depend on the school you went to.)

      No, he took control because the computer wanted them to land in an area he considered unsafe, so they went to manual. They had couple of program alarms, but these were deemed OK to continue by the engineers on the ground.

    one bit per wire crossing, a kind of like core memory but ROM made from conductive knitting. So cool ...

    correction just like core memory but the cores can't be "flipped" :-)

    If rope memory could control the Apollo vehicles enough to make their way into space, imagine what we could do if we brought together a Segway (www.segway.com), a Dyson Air Multiplier (http://www.dyson.com/Fans/FansAndHeaters.aspx) and an Apple IPad (http://www.apple.com/ipad/) ? We could probably built the Enterprise and go looking for Spock ....

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