Shuttle computers say goodbye

July 25th, 2011 in .News & Events
Suds McSoapdish
Pin It

The final space shuttle mission has come to a very successful conclusion as Atlantis made it back to Florida July 21 safe and sound. With the end of STS-135, a new age of space exploration, adventure and learning is about to begin, but we can spare a minute to honour the computers that drove the shuttles on those many missions to orbit.

Photo courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls

No, we can’t claim they were ASUS computers, but they were computers and thus ambassadors of technology. While I’m sure the astronauts would have loved something like the NX90 or even ESC4000 to be the IT backbone of the ship, it was IBM’s AP-101 series as the brains of the operation since 1981. The original AP-101B machines were replaced in 1991, after ten years of service, by the more sophisticated AP-101S variant, which changed up the memory to proper semiconductor-based technology. The shuttles each carried five of these IBM computers, every one weighing over 30Kg and consuming more than 600 watts of power. The memory was a massive 1MB, and the clock speed was set at 1.2MHz. Basically the power of a somewhat slow Commodore Amiga, but then you weren’t supposed to run a first person shooter on these, rather do navigational calculations. Plus, the computers proved very resilient and had full flight certification. There were five of these machines on board the ships because the calculations were too complex for just one of them, so four were required. The fifth was a backup.

IBM AP-101S computer. Photo courtesy IBM.

These modest computers should also help you re-appreciate the wonderful technology you have access to. I’ll never think of a Radeon 6990 the same again after reading those specs. All kidding aside, the shuttle computers were all about reliability and accuracy, and for their many contributions to human science and knowledge – we salute them.

Also, don’t forget ASUS hardware has indeed been to space! Back in 1998, an ASUS commercial series notebook was brought into orbit as part of a prolonged mission on the then-fledgling international space station. Now that’s taking technology to new heights!

ROG G73 - enough computing power for a space armada

Thank you space shuttle and happy retirement! Let us know what role you think computers will play in the coming chapters of human space exploration in the comments section below.

Related Articles

Share |
  • Vishal

    Nice Article.

    My ASUS My Pride.