I saw the original Gemini mission control at Cape Canaveral in the spring of 1985 when it was on the "B" or second choice tour. Everything seemed from a different era even then - the digital clocks flipped little boards with number painted on them. The big map display on the wall moved a cutout of the Gemini spacecraft in front of a fixed map. The jumps from Gemini to Apollo to the space shuttle were all equally big. Our predecessors as engineers did great things with whatever was available to them. We should try to do as well as they did.
@Caleb, thanks for sharing your experience and the pictures. I am sure, being physically present there would have given you an astounding feeling, especially going back in the time. Few years back I got a chance to visit US on a business trip and my colleague there gave me a ride to the Air & Space museum near to Washington Dulles airport. Apart from many other exhibits (aero planes), there was a section for NASA's Space missions. It was an astonishing experience. I can imagine the feelings you might have got when you entered in the old command center!!
What do you mean by "NO intelligence"? You can make a general-purpose computer using magnetic drum or disk as its main memory. Yes, it's a lot slower than core memory or modern semiconductor memory, but it can execute instructions just fine. One of IBM's early machines was the IBM 650, which used drum memory. Writing code was challenging, because to get good performance you had to place your instructions on the drum so that the next instruction to be fetched would be coming up under the read/write heads just before it was needed. Otherwise you had to wait for another drum revolution. The 650 was Don Knuth's first computer (picture). I read somewhere that he came up with a great algorithm for optimizing placement of 650 instructions.
The USA Minuteman-I missile's guidance computer used a magnetic disk. One big advantage of magnetic disks and drums in nuclear missiles is that they are better hardened against radiation. I once held a surplus drum-based guidance computer from an early missle -- I don't remember which one. Beautifully engineered!
This is really a unique blend of history and technology, of the past and the future, to be able to see both the mission critical room of Apoollo and to get these choice images of the International Space Station. You and the others who won the contest are undeoubtedly very lucky....it's some sight to see.
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