A Review of “The Apollo Guidance Computer”

The Apollo Guidance Computer is a very thorough review of the computer system that allowed men to set foot on another world. Photo Credit: Springer/Praxis

Written by Frank O’Brien, The Apollo Guidance Computer is a thorough review of the computer system used during the Apollo missions. The Apollo Guidance Computer rings in at a whopping 430 pages – most readers will likely only pick out certain parts of the book to read. The book is, in a number of ways, many separate books in one – with details of the guidance computer, its development, the requirements to send astronauts to and from the Moon as well as the challenges that the engineers face in developing this revolutionary piece of equipment – all detailed within. 

The book starts out by turning the clock back about 50 years to allow the reader to see what technology was like half a century ago. During this time period computers generally filled an entire room. This (obviously) was not possible in the case of Apollo’s guidance computer – and The Apollo Guidance Computer works to detail that story. 

As far as O’Brien is concerned, he sees the book as something that techies, looking to learn how this computer system was developed, and space buffs who are seeking to learn the various intricacies of traveling to the Moon – can both enjoy. 

 “It’s a bit different from other books that are found in spaceflight libraries, in that it is appealing to two very different groups,” said O’Brien during a recent interview. “Sometimes I joke that those interested in computers read it from the beginning till the end – whereas space enthusiasts –read it from the end to the beginning.” 

The Apollo Guidance Computer Portrait Kindle

iPad 2 Kindle Edition. Photo Courtesy of Apple, Jim Hillhouse, and Frank O'Brien

For his part O’Brien acknowledges that not all parts of the book will interest all people. He is fine with that as long as readers enjoy the elements of the book that relate to them. He does hope that all readers pick up on how designers managed to pack away so much capability into a very limited structure. There was no disk, tape, or secondary storage – of any kind. 

The book works to provide a link to demonstrate how the Apollo guidance computer allowed for one of the greatest accomplishments in human history. It details how difficult the actual lunar landing was and how the computer system was instrumental in accomplishing this feat.

The book's author, Frank O'Brien has compiled a text that will please both space enthusiasts as well as techies. Photo Courtesy of Frank O'Brien

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