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The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation (Springer Praxis Books / Space Exploration) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Springer Praxis Books / Space Exploration
  • Paperback: 430 pages
  • Publisher: Praxis; 2010 edition (July 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441908765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441908766
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

From the reviews:

“This exceedingly valuable work will give present day Computer Science students the background to understand how the dramatic breakthroughs in Logical Design, Computer Architecture, Computer Language Interpreters and Real-Time Executive Software was invented, and how it worked in practice. … This excellent reference will form a model for teaching and learning historical Computer Architectures and Software so that future Computer Scientists can understand and learn the original ideas that today guide their field.” (Ira Laefsky, Amazon, September, 2010)

From the Back Cover

By today's standards, the on-board computer used by the Apollo astronaut's was a primitive affair, but in an age when most computers filled an entire room, this was small, required little power, and incorporated several technologies that were revolutionary for its time. This is the first book to fully describe the Apollo guidance computer's architecture, Executive software, and the programs used by astronauts. It describes the full range of technologies required in order to fly the Apollo lunar missions, and whicn enabled the astronauts to fly to the Moon - and back!

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I have been an avid enthusiast of the US space program for a very long time.
Jimmy
This book describes in excellent detail the problems and pitfalls of programming real-time applications in very limited computer hardware.
Gary Ludeke
I was surprised by how much I really liked this book -- Frank O'Brien knows his stuff, and this book is a real pleasure to read.
Stephen Hermer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Robert I. Hedges HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation" by Frank O'Brien is an extremely rare book: it actually says something new about Apollo while clarifying myriads of technical points that engineers, programmers, and pilots have been wondering about for decades. The book puts the history and development of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) in historical perspective, and discusses the primary hardware, software, and programming features that made the system operate. From a modern perspective the AGC seems cumbersome and archaic, yet in the 1960's it was truly state of the art, featuring huge developments in integrated circuits, and amazing flexibility in a compact package that could fit in the Command Module (CM) and Lunar Module (LM.)

The book really does start from the beginning, discussing everything from floating point numbers, binary and octal notation, instruction formats and the like. Not being a programmer, this was the most difficult part of the book for me, and I read it quite slowly to make sure I grasped the salient points before proceeding. The book then delves into the unique core memory architecture of the AGC and the structure of the various registers, timers, and basic logic. Following that O'Brien gets into concepts more familiar to me such as the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and the various I/O devices involved with spacecraft navigation. He covers the basics of cislunar navigation, and discusses how the inputs were made (generally on the DSKY,) and explains the significance of all the annunciations on the DSKY and related areas. He has a particularly strong grasp of the perils of gimbal lock, and gives excellent explanations of the phenomena and the resulting problems (i.e.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ira Laefsky VINE VOICE on September 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
The embedded computer that traveled with the Apollo astronauts was not only an important component of the navigation and control system for the historic lunar landings; it was an infinitely important landmark in the development of the microcomputer and embedded real-time systems which today inhabit our cars, homes and entertainment equipment. It was also the first important step in developing inexpensive real-time systems for control and ubiquitous computing. While other works such as Mindel's "Digital Apollo" and Eldon C. Hall's "Journey To The Moon" have described this system as a component of the overall Apollo system and in a first-person account of the development process, only this important textbook gives the modern student of computer architecture and embedded real-time systems the technical detail to understand how this first microcomputer system worked in practice. Exquisite detail and explanation is given of the Hardware and Logical Design Architecture of this systems, as well as the principles and practice of the historic Forth-like language interpreter and Real-Time Executive Software.

This exceedingly valuable work will give present day Computer Science students the background to understand how the dramatic breakthroughs in Logical Design, Computer Architecture, Computer Language Interpreters and Real-Time Executive Software was invented, and how it worked in practice. Detailed Scenarios are also given of how this software and hardware architecture functioned in the astronauts computation of Navigation and Guidance.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Hermer on December 12, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I purchased the Kindle edition, and found it to be well formatted with clear images and text. I was surprised by how much I really liked this book -- Frank O'Brien knows his stuff, and this book is a real pleasure to read.

This book is divided into five main chapters, plus a set of appendixes:

Chapter 0 - The state of the art
This chapter lays the groundwork, briefly covering the early history of computing and manned flight. This chapter also covers the concept of computer "power", and how well a computer with very limited hardware can really perform.

Chapter 1 - The AGC hardware
This chapter describes the physical computer, how it evolved from the requirements of a manned mission to the moon, and how every bit of functionality was squeezed out of it. Before reading this book, I envisioned the Apollo Guidance Computer as a glorified calculator, but it was actually a complex and advanced computer in many ways.

Chapter 2 - The Executive and Interpreter
This chapter describes the instruction set and programming language of the Apollo Guidance Computer. It also goes into some detail regarding the various interfaces inside the spacecraft as well as telemetry back to Earth. As a computer programmner, this section was especially interesting for me.

Chapter 3 - The basics of guidance and navigation
This chapter covers the spacecraft sensors and the problems of navigating the spacecraft. This might sound like a very dry subject, but the author is able to make it interesting and understandable.

Chapter 4 - Mission programs and operations
This chapter covers the entire Apollo mission (launch, navigating to the moon, lunar landing, lunar orbit rendevous, and return to the Earth).
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