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When 100 Flops/Watt was a Giant Leap

These are the slides presented by Mark C. Miller for a talk titled

When 100 Flops/Watt was a Giant Leap: The Inspiring History of the Apollo Guidance Computer

Abstract: This talk chronicles the development of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), the ancestor of home computing technology leading to Apple and IBM PCs in the 1970s and paving the way for handheld devices we all use today. Although this work took place more than 50 years ago, there are many stunning commonalities with current state of the art such as flops/watt power constraints, fault tolerance, domain specific languages, performance portability and more. This revolutionary computer made autonomous travel to the Moon not only possible but added profoundly to crew safety, flight profile accuracy and mission flexibility. The talk will give an overview of the AGC hardware architecture, the guidance software it executed as well as the pioneering efforts in developing both. In addition, we’ll discuss and compare to the present day some of the historical social context of the 1960’s era in which this work took place. Time permitting, the talk will conclude with several stories about actual user experiences with the AGC in Apollo missions.

Note: The PowerPoint slides use too many animations for any PDF versions of the slides to be worthwhile. So, only an optimized PowerPoint version is made available here.

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