San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
The Apollo Guidance Computer
a public lecture by Frank O'Brien
Perhaps the single spacecraft component that assured the success of the Apollo lunar missions was its guidance computer. Created in the 1960s when most computers filled an entire room, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was small, low power, and included capabilities that are advanced by even today's standards. We will be discussing its hardware and software architecture, I/O devices, and how engineers overcame the demanding requirements inherent in a spacecraft computer. Additionally, we will cover the human interface, command language and operations required for a flight from the Earth to the Moon. Attendees will get the opportunity to examine an early AGC, its components and review the source code. A hardware and software emulator, running actual flight software (Apollo 13 and 14) will be used to demonstrate the Display and Keyboard user interface (attendees can bring a USB thumb drive to receive a copy of the emulator).
Frank O'Brien is a volunteer historian for NASA as a contributing editor for the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, and is co-editor of the Apollo Flight Journal. Through the use of mission transcripts, interviews with the flight crews and a vast collection of technical resources, the Apollo Journals are the canonical resource for those interested in mankind's greatest voyage of exploration. From this work, Frank was invited to the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island to assist in their May, 2002 reopening. He prepared the only remaining Lunar Module Mission Simulator for exhibition, created demonstration software for a Lunar Module cockpit trainer, and prepared an Apollo space suit for the museum's centerpiece Apollo 11 diorama. This year, Frank became a Solar System Ambassador for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lectures on a wide range of space topics.
Frank is a 1979 graduate of Rutgers University (computer science), and later returned to Rutgers to earn his MBA. His day job as a SAP and database administrator is far less interesting than traveling to the Moon.
You can visit the AGC website at www.apolloguidancecomputer.com
When & Where
Hack Manhattan is a non-profit cooperative space in Lower Manhattan dedicated to technology, science, and art.