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154 comments

If you're ever in Bozeman, MT... (3)

KnightStalker (1929) | more than 13 years ago | (#456020)

the American Computer Museum there actually HAS an Apollo guidance computer, along with a lot of other neat stuff. Very cool. No, they don't let you use it. :-)

fail safe systems (1)

loki29 (307650) | more than 13 years ago | (#456026)

Their fail safe systems were pretty simple, mostly consisting of duct tape.

Seriously, their systems were simple enough, and targeted towards specific tasks, that they probably just had duplicates/triplicates of the systems themselves. If one goes wrong, the astronaut pulls it out and puts another one in.

As simple as it was, you couldn't have tons of spare equipment laying around. They tested that equipment a lot as best they could.

The big problems they had were external events/unpredictable events, such as the Apollo 13 explosion, etc. and you really can't design against that.

Emulator? (1)

spongman (182339) | more than 13 years ago | (#456027)

Cool! If I write an emulator for this machine will it let me go to the moon?

Apollo Guidance Computer Manual (5)

dbremner (16330) | more than 13 years ago | (#456029)

A Google search found this site [apollosaturn.com] . It lists all the commands and has an ASCII drawing of the display.

Re:Women are better in space (2)

Fat Rat Bastard (170520) | more than 13 years ago | (#456031)

Heavy spacesuits? ROFL, like that matters in zero gravity *NOT*

Uh... like it matters YES. *MASS* my friend. Weightlessness doesn't mean masslessness. You may not have to "hold" up a heavy suit, but you do have to move it.

You might want to know your stuff...

... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#456032)

If ($altitude == 0) then croak("You're dead...\n");

Re:Use of GOTO?!? (3)

Qoud (202153) | more than 13 years ago | (#456034)

Yes, they should have used GOSUB, they'd have stood a much better chance of RETURN'ing.

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

ghost. (85872) | more than 13 years ago | (#456035)

They would be far less likely to suffer from depression...

You must never have listened to The Smiths. ;)

Peace.

Re:Women are better in space (1)

bellings (137948) | more than 13 years ago | (#456036)

The average woman weighs 100 lbs and man 150 lbs? Not hardly.

Yeah, that does seem a little high. I suppose if we're only sending up really tall people, it's a reasonable weight. But for average height men, 150 lbs makes you a fatty. Or an American. Your choice.

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

Mr_Icon (124425) | more than 13 years ago | (#456037)

If we are to have a viable space exploration program, with happy and committed astronauts, we must put what I have recomended into practice. It will do our space exploration program the world of good, and improve its success rate.

Damn, there go our plans for prolonged manned missions which require several generations of astronauts... Whichever way you try, you still need a straight woman on board for it to work... :)

Scarcasim Alert! (3)

Auckerman (223266) | more than 13 years ago | (#456038)

Oh, come on! Everyone knows the moon landings were faked [8m.com] .

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

chancycat (104884) | more than 13 years ago | (#456039)

"Why do NASA try and make all their astronauts tall..."

Actually, NASA has very specific height restrictions that mean anyone 6' tall or more had better not waste their time applying. It may be even lower. Check.

Re:But it worked (3)

sphealey (2855) | more than 13 years ago | (#456040)

"He then manually landed the craft, with only 4 seconds of fuel remaining on touchdown"

I believe that was 64 seconds of fuel, with 60 seconds being needed to orient the descent module and fire the ascent module engine for a successful abort. The real question is whether Armstrong would have eaten into that 60 seconds to land. On the records he has always said no...

sPh

Re:Source Code for Windows 95/98 is actually... (1)

ceesco (259588) | more than 13 years ago | (#456041)

Assuming, of course, that one could actually find a really clever MCSE guy...

Re:Scarcasim Alert! (1)

linuxlover (40375) | more than 13 years ago | (#456044)

Care to explain?

Re:Women are better in space (1)

joshsisk (161347) | more than 13 years ago | (#456045)

Heavy spacesuits? ROFL, like that matters in zero gravity *NOT* :)

Having never been in zero gravity myself, it still seems like a bulky spacesuit would increase the amount of mass you would be moving around, thus impairing/slowing your movement... It still requires force to move mass in space, even if the mass has zero weight. (right?)

Still, I think women should be able to get around in the space suits just fine.

Josh Sisk

70 Lb. Box (2)

Vamphyri (26309) | more than 13 years ago | (#456046)

Start DL'ing the source and hack some
rockets.

Vam

Yeah... (2)

Karma Sink (229208) | more than 13 years ago | (#456047)

Yeah, but can it guide a missle as well as a PlayStation 2? Saddam wants to know...

massively parallel human computers (3)

peter303 (12292) | more than 13 years ago | (#456050)

The current issue of Amerian Scientist has an
article about a British meterologist who conducted
the first finite-difference weather prediction
calculation in the 1920s using a room full of
people with adding machines. The motive for this
was there were a few very dense measurements
of weather data during the Great War,
and Prof. Richardson wanted to see if it was predictable.

Richard Feymann in "Surely you aren't joking"
mentions a human calculation room for a-bomb
modeling at Los Alamos in the 1940s.

Re:Mirror (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 13 years ago | (#456051)

thanks for the mirror

NASA Astronauts should be Gay (2)

Lover's Arrival, The (267435) | more than 13 years ago | (#456053)

What about the most important guidance computer of all? The astronauts? Were/are they as good as they could be?

This may seem a little startling, but what I have to say is of the utmost importance IMO, and has not been touched upon by our biased media representatives. It is a matter of scientific fact that male astronauts are better suited to the rigours of space exploration than are females. This is due to better water retention in men, better skills at navigating in 3D environments, an important skill on spacewalks, and highly superior hand-eye coordination and physical strength. Men are the clear choice for space missions.

However, there are a number of problems involved in extended space missions for men. Amongst these is the loneliness and alienation involved. For this reason, it is my belief that gay men are far better suited for long term space exploration, being used to alienation and having a number of talents that heterosexual men do not, including better interpersonal skills. They would be far less likely to suffer from depression and the decrease in performance this would cause, as they would be able to love each other while on missions. As Human Beings are the most crucial elements in any space mission, equal opportunities regulation should not apply. We should find the very best men for the job, regardless of political and social motives.

Unfortunately, NASA is beholden to the right wing Bush administration that runs our country, and so it will insist on choosing from men and women equally, without regard to performance.

If we are to have a viable space exploration program, with happy and committed astronauts, we must put what I have recomended into practice. It will do our space exploration program the world of good, and improve its success rate.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

similar situation in the space shuttle (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 13 years ago | (#456054)

In the early 90s, when the space shuttle
were using computers designed around 1980,
their specification sounded rediculously primitive, including core memory.
Some of the astronauts were carrying laptops
that were hundreds of times more powerful.

The shuttle computers have been ugraded since.

Core memory is considered more reliable than
semiconductor memory in the space radiation
environment.

Source Code for Windows 95/98 is actually... (1)

Maddog_Delphi97 (173780) | more than 13 years ago | (#456055)

Heh, I predict that Microsoft will announce that the source code to Windows is based on the Apollo 13 code... it avoids crashing by virtue of really clever MSCE guys..

Re:The DSKY Rules! (1)

QuantumHack (58048) | more than 13 years ago | (#456056)

Thanks for the correction. Yep, just a mistype. It was Apollo 14.

QuantumHack

Re:The DSKY Rules! (1)

QuantumHack (58048) | more than 13 years ago | (#456057)

Right-O, I had a mistype there. Thanks for the correction.

Wow, look at how far we've come. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#456058)

Apollo guidance computer: 2.048MHz

Intel 8088: 4.77MHz

Intel 486: 66MHz

Intel Pentium 4: 1.5GHz

Intel Celeron A 300MHz running at 666MHz: priceless.

Women are better in space (3)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 13 years ago | (#456059)

and it only takes a back of the envelope calculations to figure that out.

  • Women are smaller, and require less food, water and oxygen.

    The average woman astronaut, at 100 pounds, is 2/3 the weight of the average male astronaut at 150 pounds. With present day launch costs of 10,000 USD per pound, replacing a 6 person male shuttle crew with 6 females results in a cost savings of $3,000,000 dollars, or 300 extra pounds of equipment and payload. Factor in the reduced fod, water and oxygen requirements, and you might be able to loft 500 extra pounds into orbit.

  • Women are hardier.

    Woman live longer than men, and are healthier in general. When you are talking about expeditions lasting 3+ years (ala Mars), you want the healthiest people you can going.

  • Women are less aggressive and territorial than men.

    When you are talking about being locked in the space the size of 2 cubibles with 5 other people for 3+ years, you want low aggression, non-territorial people there, to avoid infighting and chaos. While Europe is making admirable strides towards breeding a complacent, passive population, for now, the best. most compatible crew would be woman.



However, due to the stranglehold that the caucasian patricarchy has on the space program, don't expect this to be acknowledged, or to even see more than a token amount of women in space. Pity the Israelis don't have a space program, they don't have the resources for false pride and propping up insecure males, the would go for the gusto and have woman like Golda Meir in orbit.

Thanks,

HAL 9000 (2)

passion (84900) | more than 13 years ago | (#456061)

I wonder what clock speed the HAL 9000 ran at?

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

ScuzzMonkey (208981) | more than 13 years ago | (#456062)

But the hairspray would be a horrible fire hazard in a high-oxygen environment.

Although, in a pinch, aerosol cans could provide a life-saving alternate means of propulsion, I suppose.

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 13 years ago | (#456063)

1) "Gay can also mean big chip on shoulder you know"

2) "I have been mistaken in the past for being gay, as a result of these idiotic sterotypes."

so uh what you're saying is you have a big chip on your shoulder...?

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (2)

stubob (204064) | more than 13 years ago | (#456067)

Gay can also mean (a) big chip on shoulder
Hey, that's Chip with a capital C.

I had a feeling you were going to say that.

Re:Emulation At Its Finest (1)

QuantumHack (58048) | more than 13 years ago | (#456069)

If you want to emulate something, emulate the DSKY. THAT is a great interface. See my other post.
<p>
QuantumHack

Re:A noble era which passed us long ago. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 13 years ago | (#456071)

I agree with you, but I would like to add that managment doesn't help.
I have told managers of projects(for embedded systems no less)that I need more time for code optimization, only to ne told don't worry about it, as long as it works at all, we can add more memory to the next hardware revision. sheesh.

Re:Not practical. (2)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 13 years ago | (#456073)


And then when you figure in the crates of KY jelly, cock rings, and "Hello Kitty" tote bags, you'd end up with a rocket that wouldn't be able to exceed the escape velocity of the moon, let alone Earth!

Yeesh. I dunno what kind of fags you hang out with.

The ones I hang out with are almost exclusively into Madonna and Men's Health magazine.

So what you're saying... (1)

Masao-Kun (1791) | more than 13 years ago | (#456074)

...is that HAL was a Beowulf cluster?! :^)

Re:If you're ever in Bozeman, MT... (2)

ReidN (239329) | more than 13 years ago | (#456075)

Or you can just go here [compustory.com] and see a picture.

Re:Complexity Kills (1)

RedBull (310424) | more than 13 years ago | (#456076)

... NASA has already faced this problem, because they use Win 95 laptops. How about 10 million lines. How about 20 M?

Since when did anything Mikro$oft make have any bugs or faults? After all, wouldn't you trust your life to Windows?

Astronauts should be smart people, right? And certain, much more stable OSes exist... say Unix, or Linux... So why not train Astronauts to use them?

PS: I'd like to read the article, but I can't right now. *sigh* Slashdot effect...

Uh oh! I found a bug! (2)

The Wookie (31006) | more than 13 years ago | (#456077)


If the P-level hits 254 during zero-G, it could cause an explosion in the oxygen tanks. Who should I report this bug to?

Why mod as off topic? (1)

karmawhoeaaa2 (309448) | more than 13 years ago | (#456078)

This seems like a legitamate post

A noble era which passed us long ago. (3)

cje (33931) | more than 13 years ago | (#456080)

I really miss the days where software development and hardware engineering was really about being clever. A lot of the work being done these days has been tainted by the Microsoft mindset: "If it's too slow, throw more CPU at it; if it's too big, throw more RAM at it." This is a luxury that we didn't always have, and it's something that I think a lot of people take for granted these days. Programmers are at their best when they take a machine with definite resource limitations and work with those limitations to develop an acceptable solution. This is, IMHO, a far more noble effort than simply throwing more resources at the problem until you've gotten to the point where the "lazy man's method" is acceptable.

I can remember years back writing some assembly code on an Apple II; I had a routine that ended up being two bytes too long to fit between Page 3 and the keyboard buffer. In order to make it fit, I ended up resorting to self-modifying code that saved three bytes. Now, you might make the argument that self-modifying code is horrible style (and you'd be right), but at the time, that didn't matter to me; what mattered was that I'd come up with a solution that worked given the limitations I was stuck with. Coming up with something like that gives a person a far greater sense of accomplishment than does a solution that was attained simply by artificially throwing more resources at the problem.

This type of mindset is for the most part dead. Oh, there are examples of it around in certain specialized arenas (for example, the current crop of Playstation 1 games has pretty much pushed that platform to its limitations.) But Moore's Law and dropping RAM prices have mandated that general software development should be quick and dirty rather than compact and elegant. And maybe, from a financial standpoint, that's how it should be; after all, it takes considerably more development time and effort (and therefore more money) to write the slickest code than it does to write acceptable code that works, given enough resources. However, that doesn't mean that we should not be able to lament the passing of the earlier era.

Finally, I should point out that I am not saying that current software developers are entirely devoid of creativity, because they're not. There are a lot of developers for a lot of different hardware platforms and operating systems that are doing some pretty cool things. I am claiming, however, that software development is rapidly becoming a field of endeavor that requires far less cleverness and wherewithall than it once did. Whether this is good or bad depends on your point of view, but I don't see how it can contribute to any increase in general software quality.

Re:Complexity Kills (2)

JimPooley (150814) | more than 13 years ago | (#456081)

Missed a few points there. 1. Modern computers are far more liable to fail in space NO MATTER what software they run. This is due to increased radiation outside the atmosphere interfering with the CPU. Even if you run Linux! This is the reason why CPUs used in space vehicles are outdated, because they have gone through a vigourous hardening and testing procedure to check their suitability to space travel. i.e. the recent computer upgrade to the Hubble involved a processor (486, wasn't it?) many years obsolete by desktop standards. But it was a specially radiation-hardened chip and so less liable to fail in space.
2. If an astronaut's laptop running email crashes, this is not a big deal. If the space shuttle's guidance computer crashes, this IS a big deal. This is why they've not upgraded the systems much over the years. This is why aerospace companies have very strict protocols of design - Rapid Application Development is NOT what they want! They want very slow and careful application development using formal methods. (IMHO, Open Source wouldn't work. Joe Hacker may be a linux whizkid but does he know about telemetry? Thrust vectors? Navigation? Do you trust him to?) The last programming problem was Ariane, as far as I know. and they fixed that by the time they launched the second one. The reason this Apollo Guidance Computer is designed like this is because it was the best they could do at the time, and as someone else commented, wasn't quite good enough as Neil Armstrong had to fly the LEM out of the programmed course to a safe landing.

Hacker: A criminal who breaks into computer systems

Re:hate to break it to you (1)

YoungHack (36385) | more than 13 years ago | (#456084)

Well, I have been incorrectly hit on my a gay man. It was as honest mistake. In context, my manner would easily have set off his gaydar. It wasn't until I started hanging out with some gay friends that my own gaydar developed better.

But straight I am, and not in denial. It was just an honest mistake and I laugh about it with my gay friends. Some of my straight friends get all defensive about the idea that a gay person might hit on them, but it's not like the guy was being threatening. He was just a little more friendly than he probably would have been if he knew I was straight.

Re:Midgets are better in space (1)

anon757 (265661) | more than 13 years ago | (#456086)

I know you're probably joking, but there's probably good reasons why they dont do that, otherwise, mini-me would have been up in orbit long ago, especially during appollo. My guess is that there are other health problems that usually go along with being a midget, and NASA is very strict about sending the healthiest people into orbit. (unless it's a publicity stunt, like John Glen)

Re:But it worked (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 13 years ago | (#456096)

But at the time this was made it *was* complicated. the IC chips were so new and cost over $1000 per chip acording to the article.

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

FreeMath (230584) | more than 13 years ago | (#456097)

One of the requirements according to NASA [nasa.gov] is:
Height between 64 and 76 inches.

the soviet union is also a myth (1)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 13 years ago | (#456098)

there was no such thing as this. These "soviets" were really actors in some vast dingy government sound stage. It was done by The Man (who was controlled by The Woman) to give us all a common enemy, so we would be united for his devious purposes of psychological domination.

Re:But it worked (1)

schimmi (96703) | more than 13 years ago | (#456099)

I think the error was because somone activated the Radar for the Randevous-manouver with the command-capsulae by mistake. The computer got to many Interrupts from this system.

Re:Complexity Kills (3)

arivanov (12034) | more than 13 years ago | (#456100)

You are deeply misguided.

They are not laptops. The laptops are only for austronauts personal use and sometimes for control of non-critical experiments

The guydance and control computers are actually almost as simple as apollo 11. They were either 804(X=8,9)or 805(X=0,1). These were the highest ones certified for NASA use at the time the shuttle was designed. There is an overall of 5 of these extremely simple systems operating commands to the valves and the engine ignition system on a voting principle. The majority gets to execute the command. The idea is that there cannot be a simultaneous triple failure. This is actually described in detail in one of the articles on the shuttle ran by Scientific American in the eighties.

Huh! Bloody NASA... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 13 years ago | (#456101)

I asked the NASA museum about the specs of the Apollo 11 on-board computers about a year ago, and they didn't even reply.
Humph. What's DDJ got that I haven't?

Re:Complexity Kills (2)

tristan f. (259738) | more than 13 years ago | (#456102)

Contrary to what you seem to believe, the laptops carried aboard the shuttle serve no 'mission critical' (per se) functions. They're just laptops like you or I use, and Windows 95 is more than adequate for the purposes they serve.

The actual guidance, life support, etc., systems run on the shuttles five redundant GPCs which, no, do not run Linux. The way in which the flight systems are coded is incredible -- every single line of code is audited dozens of times. Every single bug generates a binder of paperwork. And it's not just bureaucracy -- it works. Something like half a dozen bugs have affected the shuttle computers in the last decade.

I wouldn't trust my life to Windows, but I sure as hell wouldn't trust it to Linux either. Anyone who says that they would is either suicidal or a damn fool.

I want one! (1)

TTop (160446) | more than 13 years ago | (#456103)

The article says that 75 of the AGCs were produced, surely there's a few knocking around in NASA's closet somewhere. Maybe they can put a few of them up on Ebay? I'm willing to bet that some crafty slashdotter could manage to make one function as a simple webserver. How cool would that be?

Re:Complexity Kills (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 13 years ago | (#456104)

They want very slow and careful application development using formal methods. (IMHO, Open Source wouldn't work. Joe Hacker may be a linux whizkid but does he know about telemetry? Thrust vectors? Navigation? Do you trust him to?)

Open Source doesn't mean you have to accept patches from every J.Random Hacker. It just means that every J. Random Hacker can get the source, look at it, learn from it, and modify it for the rocket he's building in his backyard.

Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

Re:Complexity Kills (2)

kevlar (13509) | more than 13 years ago | (#456105)

NASA actually brings multiple laptops for guidance computer while in orbit. Only one computer is actually needed, but since they recognize the fact that windows is instable, they have a couple more for redundancy. While one is blue-screening, another one takes control of the system.

Re:Complexity Kills (1)

bstadil (7110) | more than 13 years ago | (#456106)

"Personally, I think that this sort of complexity is going to become the limiting factor in the advancement of technology". Not to diminish the problem but we will find a technological solution to this technological problem. Ie a solution not dependent on direct human labour. Its like the phone companies in the early days projecting a limit to the numbers of phones as we would run out of "telephone operators". They were banting around projecting millions of people manning switchboards.

Re:Gemeni - Found the source code (1)

Schnedt McWhatever (313008) | more than 13 years ago | (#456107)

You can GPL it, but are you prepared to incorporate the patches that people submit in the next version?

If not, why would you GPL it?

Re:But it worked (2)

swinge (176850) | more than 13 years ago | (#456108)

Not too shabby.

not too shabby? did you ever a play a lunar lander from that period? that's outstanding! of course, I read the article and it doesn't say anywhere how many plays he had at it.

Re:The DSKY Rules! (2)

sconeu (64226) | more than 13 years ago | (#456109)

Alan Shepard was on Apollo 14. Alan Bean was on Apollo 12.

You're seeing oppressed behavior in woman (1)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 13 years ago | (#456120)

Women are less aggressive and territorial?! Have you seen the way most women bicker and become catty either at each other or behind each others backs? I'm not saying all women are like that, but please, to say women are less worse than men about issues of territory or aggression, you arent taking everything into account. Women are the same way, but of course differently.

While that is an astute observation, you're probably not aware of the fact that such behavior is common among oppressed people. Think about it, if you were a person who was reminded hourly of your alleged shortcomings and failures and inferiorities, wouldn't you get a little touchy.

Do a little sociological research into more matriarchal societies, the woman are the peacemakers and argument settlers, the men are somewhat surplus. I suggest starting with the matriarchal Native American tribes, the Iroqios perhaps.

3 INFORMATIVE?!!!!! (1)

karmawhoeaaa2 (309448) | more than 13 years ago | (#456121)

Wow maybe slashdot should start qualifying moderators

Re:When they got into space... (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 13 years ago | (#456122)

I know you're joking, but O/Cing in space is HARDER than down on good ol' Terra. I was watching a feature on the Apollo 13 near tragedy and one of the problems they had was the cooling system for the computer had to be turned off due to power constraints and there was a concern over the processor overheating even though they were in the coldness of space. IIRC the reasoning was that the heat generated by even the wiring couldn't be drawn away by convection like here on earth, and it would start to build up and get to the point where it would cause damage.

Re:The DSKY Rules! (2)

omega_rob (246153) | more than 13 years ago | (#456123)

In my day we called our verb-noun interface "Zork", not 'DSKY'.

go north

look

You see a mailbox here.

open mailbox

Inside the mailbox is a leaflet.

take leaflet

Taken.

read leaflet

etc.

So that's how they made Zork work! I always wondered about that when I was a kid, I just assumed it was rocket science. Looks like I was right!

omega_rob

Re:2 Mhz? That's AMAZING considering the time (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 13 years ago | (#456124)

Don't be so stupid. Of course it's accurate.
Computers don't need to run at 1000MHz to work.
If you got rid of all the Redmond/RedHat bloat and wrote stuff for embedded controllers you'd soon see...

Re:But it worked (1)

wocky (17453) | more than 13 years ago | (#456125)

I notice that the date on the listing is from after the Apollo 11 landing. Perhaps it represents version 1.1 and the bug has been fixed :-).

Use of GOTO?!? (5)

2ndPersonShooter (235295) | more than 13 years ago | (#456126)

I figured these NASA guys are crack engineers, so if I look at the code I might learn a thing or two. But then there it is, plain as day, the use of GOTO in line 470! I mean, come on, using GOTO in a guidance system? I couldn't believe my eyes!

470 on BLASTOFF goto MOON

Who do these guys think they are? Every 1st year CS student knows that GOTO is considered harmful. [acm.org]

Let's do ourselves all a favor and never go to the moon again using a GOTO statement!

By comparison... (4)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 13 years ago | (#456127)

The fuel injection controller in most newish cars uses an embedded controller, usually with about 8k of ROM (most of which is lookup tables) and 256 bytes of RAM.
They are usually based on 8032 family processors, and are clocked at a stunning 12MHz.
Of course, I'm speaking for the Bosch Jetronic family, newer ones are more powerful (but not by much).

They did so much with so little... (2)

ChaoticCoyote (195677) | more than 13 years ago | (#456128)

...and now we do very little with so much.

Or so it would seem, at least in the world of computing. And the scale of Apollo's computers suggests that going to the moon is predicated on will and desire, not technology.

Of course, there is something to be said for the vastness of modern computing; we don't need to spend enless hours on the minutia, giving us the luxury of focusing on "the bigger picture".

Still, I wonder what we could accomplish if we wrote put a historical level of effort into code optimization. Think of the bloat involved in Perl, Java, MFC, VB, scripting, and useless visual clutter. Sometime, bloat doesn't matter -- and sometime, the bloat is just a reflexion of laziness.

Don't get me wrong; as my father (one of the first EEs) always said: "Use the right tool for the job." While C/C++ may be my tool of choice, it isn't the best or most efficient mechanism for every problem. I think our problem is the old saw about "a man with a hammer sees every problem as a nail." We are too myopic in our view of software developemnt, and we are often too lazy to use the right tool for the job.

But I digress.

It is good for all programmers to be forced to get the most out of the least. I've been playing with my Lego Mindstorms kits, trying to build learning algorithms into limited program space, a few motors, and a couple of sensors. It's been a mind-stretching exercise, and I highly recommend such projects to programmers who want to hone their skills to a fine edge.


--
Scott Robert Ladd
Master of Complexity
Destroyer of Order and Chaos

Re:Complexity Kills (2)

Bonker (243350) | more than 13 years ago | (#456129)

I have to disagree with this, because I think part of any effective testing regimen is durability/lifetime testing. This is obviously something that doesn't happen very much with software testing because of all the little 'memory holes' that don't get noticed until a system 49 days old needs to be rebooted.

We're right on the verge of sending out interstellar probes. Even if you could do rapid testing by automated means (AI calculated test types, etc... ), can you be assured that your system with last for dozens or hundreds of years necessary to cross the interstellar gap at sub-c speeds?

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

msuzio (3104) | more than 13 years ago | (#456130)

No way. Two days in space and they'd be clawing each other's eyes out fighting over show tunes and interior decorating. ;-).

Re:Women are better in space (1)

Mnemia (218659) | more than 13 years ago | (#456131)

While I completely agree with most of your points, I have to take issue with the statement that women would be physiologically better suited to a Mars mission. One of the major health risks associated with long term space travel is loss of bone density (eventually leading to osteoporosis). Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis on Earth because they have less bone mass to lose. Same thing applies here.

Re:HAL 9000 (1)

Schnedt McWhatever (313008) | more than 13 years ago | (#456132)

Judging by the fact that when HAL had to be shut down, Dave disconnected a series of modules, and HAL got more primitive as the modules were disconnected, I would say that HAL was a massively parallel system, hence there was no single clock frequency.

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

bellings (137948) | more than 13 years ago | (#456133)

You know that thing I said a while back about you being a good troll?

Well, I take it back. If you can't get people to take you seriously, mod you up, and reply in a hug bluster to a farcical post about gay astronauts, you're clearly not trying very hard.

In short, I'm very dissapointed.

Also, if you want to convince NASA to send you into space, you don't need slashdot's support for sending gay men into space. You need NASA's support.

hate to break it to you (2)

Shoeboy (16224) | more than 13 years ago | (#456134)

As a straight, heterosexual male, I have been mistaken in the past for being gay, as a result of these idiotic sterotypes.
If you were mistaken for being gay by actual homosexuals, you might want to do some introspection.
As a practicing homosexual, I can assure you that what is laughably called "gaydar" is damn near infallible.
I have never once mistakenly hit on a heterosexual man - not once. Sure, sometimes I hit on latent homosexuals who were still in denial, but they've all been at the point in their lives where they were willing to expiriment.
Of course if it's women or straight men that think you're gay, you've got nothing to worry about - they can't tell worth beens.
Most of my hetero male friends think I'm straight.
--Shoeboy

But it worked (5)

sharkticon (312992) | more than 13 years ago | (#456135)

Considering that today people seem to want to throw the latest technologies at every tiny little problem they encounter the fact that the Apollo 11 worked is a testament to the fact that more is not always better, and that complexity brings its own problems.

Unfortunately, it seems as though people have gotten used to the idea that they require the latest technology, the latest "innovations" in order to be successful and cool. Hence the market for shoddy products that are rushed out quickly to customers, who can be guaranteed to solve their problems by getting the next release because it's newer and therefore superior.

Whereas this machine, so simple compared to even the simplest of embedded processors today, did what it was supposed to, and did it well. Today, we see all kinds of computer problems due to technology being thrown at projects as a miracle cure without considering what is actually required! Just look at the Navy's debacle with NT for a prime example.

Well done /. We need more stories to remind us that more technology isn't always good. Remember, 90% of everything is crap, and technology is no exception.

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#456136)

sorry dude, you still arent going to space...

Great stuff for making rocket simulators (1)

CBravo (35450) | more than 13 years ago | (#456137)

Now you can actually build a simulator yourself (fi you really don't have a life). Seems fun though, to train your reflexes in the same way that the astronauts did.

Complexity Kills (5)

Bonker (243350) | more than 13 years ago | (#456143)

Part of the beauty of this old, seemingly useless system was that it was simply designed, and almost perfectly optimized for the task.

Now we have astronauts taking laptops into space and using MS software for email and networking while on board. The testing cycles for all this software is long because all faults have to be eliminated, but the simple fact remains that computer and software designs are becoming so complex that in the very near future, if not already, they are too complex for use in the space program.

Hunting down a bug in a 100000 lines of code is one thing. Hunting down a bug and all the other bugs it causes in 4 million lines? NASA has already faced this problem, because they use Win 95 laptops. How about 10 million lines. How about 20 M?

What about the computer processors that run the space shuttles. Frankly, they're all old technology, because upgrading to the newer stuff is just too damned dangerous. If the video processor that powers your HUD guidance systems crashes because of an obscure hardware bug that occurs only in freefall, you're screwed.

Personally, I think that this sort of complexity is going to become the limiting factor in the advancement of technology. A point will come in the very near future when systems, be they processors or OS's, become so complex that the testing time necessary for critical use makes rapid development unprofitable.

Re:the soviet union is also a myth (1)

omega_rob (246153) | more than 13 years ago | (#456145)

Mind control. The truth is out there. I can't believe they actually fooled me about the whole Soviet Union thing. Of course it's all so clear in retrospect, I mean who's really supposed to believe that it just suddenly collapsed? It never existed in the first place, the whole fall of communism was obviously a concerted manipulation of the press to propagate the myth and keep the populace under control.

omega_rob

Re:Women are better in space (1)

cavemanf16 (303184) | more than 13 years ago | (#456146)

But men are generally stronger than women. An important issue when trying to move around in those very heavy spacesuits and when working on machinery that requires brute strength at times. And men don't have periods or other womenly complications that can arise at the most inopportune(sp?) times. Not that I'm against women in a space program, there just needs to be a balance of the sexes for obvious reasons.

Re:Emulation At Its Finest (1)

Lizard_King (149713) | more than 13 years ago | (#456147)

Hey...its the only thing I could think of besides saying "Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of these things?"

Actually, a Beowulf cluster of these would suck. Think about it: a gymnasium full of 70 pound machines struggling through a bubble sort.... imagine how many monkeys and typewriters you could fit instead.

Re:Women are better in space (1)

swinge (176850) | more than 13 years ago | (#456148)

Women are better in space also because during self-gratification--c'mon, obviously important on long flights--hey, now cut it out, we're grownups planning a mission here, we have to talk about this stuff--as I was saying,
  • women conserve momentum by not firing a small(ish) rocket and
  • without the rocket there's no pesky rocket fuel to dispose of

You couldn't flush the toilet with one now (2)

gelfling (6534) | more than 13 years ago | (#456149)

I'm sure that if I was an astronaut I'd prefer the relative comfort and ease of use and reliability of modern ships compared to Apollo but there's something to be said for the single mindedness of that earlier gear. There was abolutetly NOTHING extra in that box, nada. I spent my formative years designing computational algorithms expressedly for limited resource, slow clock machines. The design goal specifically was "do xxxxxx in 25 ticks or less and using less than x K memory". It puts the fun back into orbital mechanics. By comparison I doubt you could run the diagnostic system that checks the indicator status lights on the space shuttle with one. Nor would you want to either.

Re:Yeah... (1)

rosewood (99925) | more than 13 years ago | (#456150)

Actually it was still powerful enough to play tetris on it!

Re:Complexity Kills (1)

byronbussey (238252) | more than 13 years ago | (#456151)

This machine might not be complecated today, but back in the 60's it certainly was.
There's really no difference between the complexity of a system today than then, it's all relative.


Re:The DSKY Rules! (2)

hanway (28844) | more than 13 years ago | (#456152)

Just one correction to an informative post -- right astronaut, wrong mission: Alan Shepard was on Apollo 14.

I can see it now. (2)

Murphy Bitter (216703) | more than 13 years ago | (#456153)

"Ground control, wtf are you doing the clocks only on 5 and we're off the ground."

The good news was Windows couldn't run on it.

Re:But it worked (3)

selectspec (74651) | more than 13 years ago | (#456154)

Actualy, it didn't work. Fortunately, Armstrong noticed that Eagle was heading towards some jagged craters and turned the landing computer off. He then manually landed the craft, with only 4 seconds of fuel remaining on touchdown. Not too shabby.

The DSKY Rules! (5)

QuantumHack (58048) | more than 13 years ago | (#456155)

The Display/Keyboard interface (DSKY, pronounced 'diskey') to the Guidance/Nav computer (GNC) was a superb interface. I know an engineer who actually got to play with one. In a pre-GUI, pre-command-line age, the verb-noun interface was actually very intuitive. It's kind of like having a hardware interface that allows you to call various API methods or functions, which prompts you as to the various parameters, then displays the returned values.

To the astronauts, the DSKY was the GNC; the GNC really was just a box stowed in the Lower Equipment Bay.

The interface was so good, it was subsequently used on the F-8 fighter prototype. For more on the DSKY, see:

http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/gallery/photo/F-8DFBW/HTM L/EC96-43408-1.html

To see it in action, watch the "From the Earth to the Moon" series from HBO. Most local video stores have 'em. The Apollo 12 one was my favorite for seeing the DSKY in action, when Al Sheppard helped upload new code (IN FLIGHT) to ignore a flakey ABORT button.

Best to ya,

Quantum Hack

http://www.hamhud.net

cool pet project (1)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 13 years ago | (#456156)

I dont know about everyone else but I see this being a very cool pet project. collaboration of CS and amatuer rocketry. I am also very curious to knwo what sort of fail safe systems were in place back then compared to now.

Emulation At Its Finest (2)

EXTomar (78739) | more than 13 years ago | (#456157)

Emulating this will be sweet and elite. The only problem is the 70 lbs box. Hurm...I bet if I strap together four old metal computer cases that will way nearly 70 lbs! Rock on!

Hey...its the only thing I could think of besides saying "Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of these things?"

Re:Women are better in space (2)

KjetilK (186133) | more than 13 years ago | (#456162)

I am tempted to ask "what heavy space suits"? I mean, it is not necessary, not even likely, than a Mars mission 15 years from now would require heavy space suits.

As for the period, lots of women take Depo Provera, one common side-effect is that the period goes away. I'd say that problem is fixed.

Actually, I think an all-women crew on a Mars mission deserves very serious attention. Also, I think it is important that recruitment of female astronauts gets more attention now, so that a high enough number of astronauts gathers enough experience for such a mission.

Whether we should go at all, is a different issue...

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (2)

Shoeboy (16224) | more than 13 years ago | (#456163)

Ha ha,
Nothing's as funny as an offensive stereotype.
Do you have any idea what it's like to be a homosexual in middle America?
Violence, intimidation, ridicule, discrimination...
It's not funny at all.
You make me ill.
--Shoeboy

Re:Midgets are better in space (4)

Sethb (9355) | more than 13 years ago | (#456167)

Why not send dwarves/midgets? They're even smaller! You could build smaller vehicles, smaller spacesuits, pack less food, etc.

Send Mini-Me to Mars!
---

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 13 years ago | (#456168)

As other posts have shown, there are good reasons why women are well-suited to space, too. So don't worry so much about it.

Also, there was a couple who met in the NASA space program, were married, and got to go up to Mir together. This raised quite a number of eyebrows around NASA :)


------

Not practical. (3)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 13 years ago | (#456169)


For this reason, it is my belief that gay men are far better suited for long term space exploration,

Are you kidding? The Madonna CDs alone would make the launch weight prohibitive!

seems like... (1)

Ender Ryan (79406) | more than 13 years ago | (#456170)

The DDJ website is being run by that computer!

Damn slashdot effect.

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

Lover's Arrival, The (267435) | more than 13 years ago | (#456171)

I am not saying that gay men all have better interpersonal skills, merely that they tend to, on the average. I am actually quite pleased at this, because it means that the world is not as homogenous as it could be, and has plentiful variety. Normally I would be for equal opportunities, but in certain situations, such as the army and the space corp, I think there are extenuating circumstances that mean it should not apply.

Why do NASA try and make all their astronauts tall, heterosexual all-American good guy types? These types are not the best for the job, IMO. Deviant conditions of work require deviant workers, and I do not mean that as an insult, but rather as a compliment. I just want people to consider this important issue.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

When they got into space... (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 13 years ago | (#456172)

it was so cold they could overclock that little badass to 5Mhz!

Re:NASA Astronauts should be Gay (1)

Miss Pereira (307824) | more than 13 years ago | (#456173)

One thing's for sure - They would have professional looking haircuts all the time...
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