Apollo Guidance Computer Can Still Mine Bitcoin (BTC)


It may be pointless, but it’s interesting how technology developed in 1969 can still find use in keeping the Bitcoin blockchain in check by confirming transactions. The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) has been found to still have the power to mine Bitcoin (BTC).

On July 20, 1969, the first human landed on the moon. Until today, this remains the biggest achievement of the 20th century. However, to facilitate the great journey to the moon, a lot of preparations and systems were put in place.

For example, mainframe and mini computers provided the essential computational power needed to plan the mission which included performing intensive calculations before, during, and after the mission.

Even so, there was one special equipment which, although it occupied a central role, it’s commonly left out when the medals are awarded; the Apollo Guidance Computer. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):

“The Apollo Guidance Computer was fairly compact for a computer of its time. The CM (command module) housed the computer in a lower equipment bay, near the navigator’s station. The Apollo computer had a simple packaging system. The computer circuits were in two trays consisting of 24 modules. Each module had two groups of 60 flat packs with 72-pin connectors. The flatpacks each held two logic gates. The Apollo computer used few flip-flop registers due to size and weight considerations.”

Development From 1969

Interestingly, the same computer developed a century ago, is finding its way into the fourth revolution where it's being applied to mine Bitcoin.

Ken Shirrif, an engineer specializing in IC reverse engineering, among other things, gave attention to the AGC and seems to be getting somewhere. In his blog, Shirrif said:

“Now that we have the world’s only working AGC, I decided to write some code for it. Trying to mine Bitcoin on this 1960s computer seemed both pointless and anachronistic, so I had to give it a shot.”

As much as Shirrif’s project is interesting, the AGC, even after a hard try to fit the Bitcoin hash algorithm in a 15-bit computer, is extremely slow. According to Ken, the AGC has a speed of 10.3 seconds per hash. Therefore, to mine one block on the Bitcoin blockchain, the Apollo Guidance Computer would take “about a billion times the age of the universe.”

The AGC Simply Can’t Match

Although the AGC is big in size, a USB stick miner surpasses it in speed. For instance, the stick miner has a speed of 130 billion hashes per second. Notably, the stick miner costs roughly $70 while the AGC can cost up to $150,000.

Apart from the speed, the AGC uses more power (55 watts) while the USB stick miner uses 12 watts. As per Shirrif’s blogs:

“The enormous difference in performance is due to the exponential increase in computer speed described by Moore’s law as well as the advantage of custom Bitcoin mining hardware.”

With the Apollo program costing the tax payer $150 billion in the current exchange rates, if NASA had been mining BTC, it would have already recouped the money considering that Bitcoin has a market capitalization of $200 billion. But with the AGC’s tortoise speed, this remains to be a dream.

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