NASA computer from historic Apollo program is now mining Bitcoin

13 Jul, 2019 | Updated: 13 Jul, 2019
by David Robb
News
NASA computer from historic Apollo program is now mining Bitcoin

The computer from NASA's historic Apollo program has recently been put to a more contemporary use. The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) is currently mining Bitcoin (BTC). 

The Apollo program that NASA launched back in the 1960s was one of the most influential factors in the early development of computer technology. Although very clunky and basic by contemporary standards, the AGC was much smaller than most computers of its time, enough that the space agency was able to install it in the first craft that it flew to the Moon. It controlled navigation, as well as the power to the engines.

Tech enthusiast Ken Shirriff has restored the old AGC unit, posting updates on his work on his blog, righto.com. Once it was complete, he decided that he wanted to write some code on it, and chose the Bitcoin algorithm. He claims that mining BTC on the computer "seemed both pointless and anachronistic, so I had to give it a shot".

Shirrif claims that the AGC was "slow even by 1960s standards", as it sacrificed processing power for portability. It could perform about 40,000 additions per second, which is a significant order of magnitude below what a dedicated BTC mining rig would need to have any chance of success. Shirriff used a block that had been previously mined in order to test the algorithm, and was able to successfully run the program.

As interesting as this experiment may have been as a way to demonstrate how computer technology has developed over the past five decades, it wasn't particularly well-received on Twitter. One observer described it as an "appalling waste of human endeavour", while another criticized the energy consumption of Bitcoin (BTC).

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