The code that took America to the moon was just published

Margaret_Hamilton“When programmers at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory set out to develop the flight software for the Apollo 11 space program in the mid-1960s, the necessary technology did not exist. They had to invent it,” according to Quartz.

“They came up with a new way to store computer programs, called ‘rope memory,’ and created a special version of the assembly programming language. Assembly itself is obscure to many of today’s programmers—it’s very difficult to read, intended to be easily understood by computers, not humans. For the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), MIT programmers wrote thousands of lines of that esoteric code.

“Here’s a very 1960s data visualization of just how much code they wrote—this is Margaret Hamilton, director of software engineering for the project, standing next to a stack of paper containing the software (see photo).

“As enormous and successful as Burkey’s project has been, however, the code itself remained somewhat obscure to many of today’s software developers. That was until last Thursday (July 7), when former NASA intern Chris Garry uploaded the software in its entirety to GitHub, the code-sharing site where millions of programmers hang out these days.”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

2 thoughts on “The code that took America to the moon was just published”

  1. Fascinating. Every computer and every device in existence that contains any sort of computer within it operates by means of a set of machine instructions unique to it. The assembly languages are just a set of mnemonic codes that can be “assembled” into long strings of machine instructions. I used to dabble with assembly languages for the old IBM industrial-strength 1401 computers, as well as for the IBM PCs when they first appeared, before I started coding in higher level languages like C and Pascal.

    1. Yes. I showed this to our son this morning (a STEM student), and he enjoyed the “history.” I took a computer science class at Cal, where we used “C” and “Pascal.” Then in the ’80s I worked in Fort Lauderdale, where the IBM PC was made just up the road in Boca Raton. I wrote about that. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.

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