Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Now that's what I call a project

Another nice link from the Programming Throwdown boys: a Quartz article explaining that the source code for the Apollo Guidance Computer developed for the lunar landing project back in the sixties has found its way onto Github.

There's a picture of the directory of software engineering Margaret Hamilton (another heroine for the gallery) standing next to a stack of source code printouts.  The stack is very nearly as tall as she is. Now that's what I call a Project. I might just print this out and frame it.

I've written plenty of assembler code over the years.  Our most complicated selector system would fill about half of one of those binders, and I am generous with comments.

I am just old enough to remember the lunar landings. I don't imagine anything quite like that will happen again.

The nearest is the marvellous results they get from the unmanned probes that have been sent to comets, under the clouds of Venus, and recently out to frosty Pluto (especially brilliant).

But I can't see actual people ever going out there, even to the Moon.

There has been talk of manned expeditions to Mars - - but the resources required for that project would be massive even compared to what was spent sending men to the Moon. Who has that kind of money available, and why would they spend it on space travel?

Back in the sixties it was different - we were in the Cold War: the capitalist nations felt they were under real threat of being overtaken by the rise of communism, and any expenditure was based on that fear.

Neil Armstrong was sent to the Moon because otherwise the Soviets might get there first.  After all, they sent the first satellite, and the first man and the first woman into space, and the first probe round the back of the moon, they are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.  And the first dog.

But now of course the Soviets are history, that panic is over, the incentive is gone.

Granted, we do have the technology to send people to the planet Mars.  We also have the technology to go out into the Sahara and build some more pyramids.  But we are not going to, because we have no reason to.