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Someone programmed a new moon landing game for the 50-year-old Apollo 11 computer
This one is for all the old-school gamers — as in Apollo-era old-school. Programmer David Given has successfully been able to repurpose the software of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), the computer responsible for landing Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon 50 years ago, and create (what else?) a lunar landing game. This really is legit because he used the same exact code that landed the Apollo missions.
You can’t find an AGC just anywhere these days, since there is only one running AGC in the world and possibly another floating out in space somewhere. Given used an AGC emulator that recreates what now seems like ancient software on a modern PC. Code generated by the emulator can actually be read by the surviving AGC relics that were used for the Apollo missions, which is kind of creepy and fascinating at the same time.
Given admitted on his blog that AGC programming is bizarre, but still makes it seem easy.
“First, download and decompress the binary,” he said. “Then hand-weave into core rope memory and assemble into an AGC module. Locate a running AGC and insert it into the common-fixed bank 2 slot. Attach a set of LM [lunar module] simulated peripherals to the AGC and power on. If you have a real LM, all the better.”
What exactly is playing this like? You first find out your altitude, vertical velocity and how much fuel you have in the tank. You control thrust on the lunar module with a joystick — push forward for more, and more towards the center for less. Don’t go too fast or you’ll see velocity and altitude alarm lights, which could mean a crash if you don’t slow down. Even if you do crash, you can always play again after it’s game over. Unlike, you know, the real Apollo missions.
Astronauts chose to guide the lunar module manually, but the real AGC could have landed Apollo spacecraft automatically. It was even able to restart and pick up where it left off. That’s pretty impressive for something slower than dial-up internet.
If you want to virtually take one giant leap, watch Given’s video above.