Time to go back

It’s been 45 years this month since Mankind landed on the Moon for the first time.  I still remember sitting on my front porch on July 20, 1969,  listening to Niel Armstrong on the radio (My family didn’t have a TV) saying, “The surface is fine and powdery – I can kick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere to the sides and sole of my boot.” I’m quoting that from memory!

Apollo 11 plaque

It’s time to go back. This time, however, Government needs to stay out of it. The basic research has been done by NASA, and that’s what they’re good at. Now that our tax dollars have funded the answer to the question, “Can we do it?,” private enterprise can take over. It’s been that way since NASA’s predecessor, NACA (National Council on Aeronautics) was first formed. Research and Development is expensive, and sometimes private enterprise can’t afford it. But once the basic research is done, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel, and there’s no need for Government to be involved.

Several private companies, notably Spacex, the company that will soon be the only American game in town flying astronauts to the International Space Station, have Moon plans in the works.

How does this relate to a computer blog? Well, first, I’m not just about computers, but technology in general. Second, the Moon landings were all about computers. Sure, you needed big rockets, but, even more importantly, you needed computing power. Some of the calculations involved in the Moon landing would have taken man-years to perform by hand. The mainframe computer at Mission Control could do that in minutes. That computer could probably now be replaced by one low-end PC.

The landing computer on the Lunar Module was about the size of a suitcase, weighed 60 pounds, cost $150,000, and had a 74 Kilobyte (That’s 74,000 letters, approximately) “Hard Drive,” and 4 Kilobytes (Thousands) of RAM (Not Megabytes (Millions) or Gigabytes (Billions)). This same computing capacity can now be had for about a dollar, and could fit in a wristwatch!

This same landing computer also overloaded during final landing approach, causing Niel Armstrong to manually take over and hand-fly the LEM to touchdown. This is all as it should be. Computers should be tools, to be used by people. Only people can have adventures, and virtual adventures are no adventures at all.

So, tonight, go outside, look up, and think about all we could be if we had Vision, and used our technology, instead of letting our technology use us.

Rest in peace, Niel Armstrong, and Thank You. You (And the 400,000 technicians that were watching your back) proved what people with a vision can do. I pray to God we get some National Vision again.