The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) that astronauts used to control their journeys to the moon was an amazing device at least a decade ahead of its time when it was first developed in the 1960s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it can’t hold a candle to the smartphone in your pocket in terms of either computing power or user-friendliness. But if you want to see what extra-terrestrial computing was really like, you can experience the awkward controls first hand with Moonjs, an online version of that historic computer.
One of the first computers to use microchips, the AGC was controlled through a display and keyboard combination referred to as “DSKY” for sort. To run programs, astronauts would use a series of numeric keys and other specific buttons to identify a “verb” (the program to be run) and a “noun” (the address in memory the program would affect).
Moonjs, a web-based simulation built on the back of the Virtual Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), lets you toy around with the computer right from your browser. You can just flail around and hit some buttons, of course, but given the arcane controls, some instructions are helpful. Fortunately, the simulator has a checklist that will walk you through a simulated Saturn V launch, which gives you a first-hand idea of exactly what moon-bound astronauts were doing in those tense moments before and during launch.
It’s a fascinating if abstract experience. There’s no visuals or sounds, so you’ll have to use your imagination and/or make the engine noises yourself for a more authentic experience. The upside, on the other hand, is if you mess it up, nobody dies.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics