A Computer That Helped NASA Land at the Moon

Over the years, there’s been no scarcity of creativity on the subject of revolutionary new Bitcoin mining efforts. We’ve seen mining rigs built inside the returned Teslas, powered via wind or human breath, or even mining rigs that harvest human body heat.

The state-of-the-art innovative effort: poorly reconfiguring a vintage Apollo guidance laptop to mine Bitcoin.

Tinkerer and software engineer Ken Shirriff has rich, superb records taking archaic structures and nursing them returned to life. From antique IBM 1401 mainframes to antiquated computer systems like the Xerox Alto, Shirriff can regularly be located restoring and reverse engineering systems of the beyond to assist deliver us higher know-how of the hardware and software program of the present and destiny.


Shirriff’s modern-day undertaking is the healing of a fifty-two 12-month-old Apollo Guidance Computer (GDC), used onboard every Apollo command module (CM) and Apollo Lunar Module (LM) throughout the Apollo software—and our adventures to the moon.

In a blog submission, Shirriff notes that after getting the GDC up and walking (the handiest one presently operational everywhere, he says), he decided to give it an extra modern project: mining Bitcoin. He says that implementing the Bitcoin hash algorithm in meeting code on a fifteen-bit laptop from the ’60s took some elbow grease to get operating.

The AGC doesn’t have a microprocessor since it was built years before microprocessors had even evolved. As such, it’s now not going to rival the cutting-edge $ hundred and twenty 000 oil-submerged bitcoin mining rig any time soon. In truth, it’s not going even to mine a single block, nicely, ever.

“At 10.3 seconds in keeping with hash, it would take a thousand million times the universe’s age to mine a block,” Sheriff stated of the effort. “Still quicker than mining by hand or punch cards,” he mentioned. For some perspective, a $70 USB stick miner plays 130 billion hashes in step with 2D.

One of the primary computers to use integrated circuits, the AGC turned into 70 pounds and under a cubic foot in size—something revolutionary for the generation emerging from the mainframe era. That said, the PC was only capable of forty,000 additions consistent with second; gradual, however, nevertheless enough to assist in manipulating steerage, navigation, and engine management.

In a YouTube video, Shirriff indicates his Bitcoin program walking at the Apollo steering pc with the consequences displayed on a custom-made DSKY (Display/Keyboard)—because nobody is capable of providing him with a working, authentic DSKY.

“The Apollo Guidance Computer took five. Fifteen seconds for one SHA-256 hash,” resulting in a hash price of 10. Three seconds, according to Bitcoin hash, Shirriff notes.

“Currently, the Bitcoin community is performing about sixty-five EH/s (sixty-five quintillion hashes in step with 2nd),” he says. “At this problem, it’d take the AGC four×10^23 seconds on average to find a block. Since the universe is only 4.3×10^17 seconds antique, it’d take the AGC approximately 1000000000 instances the age of the universe to mine a block efficaciously.”

Shirriff notes this isn’t his first run-in with what he calls “absurd Bitcoin mining.”

He’s also documented his efforts to mine Bitcoin by hand using pencil and paper, which led to a hash price of zero. Sixty-seven hashes per day. He’s also toyed with using an IBM punch card mainframe computer (obtaining a hash price of 80 seconds consistent with a soup), in addition to the 1973 Xerox Alto, which netted him a nonetheless tepid 1. Five hashes per 2nd.

While Shirriff isn’t getting rich any time soon from his experiments, the “due to the fact I can” efforts are worthwhile in phrases of preserving older software programs, archiving PC history, and reminding present-day engineers not to take contemporary processing energy for granted.

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