Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Some Things Are Still Pretty Amazing

In July of 1969 - 43 years (and 5 days) ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped off of a tiny ladder and put their foot on the moon.

Michael Collins, meanwhile, floated impotently up in orbit in the command module. Poor bastard).

Now that NASA has, apparently, shifted to less of a launching-people-into-space mode of thinking, and more of a let's-think-about-what-the-Universe-is-really-like mode of thinking, a lot of people are complaining that the age of discovery is over, or that we've given up, or a bundle of other things.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, for example, has said that "We stopped dreaming." And maybe that's true. Since the last moon landing in the 1970s, we've barely put men beyond the outer ranges of the atmosphere. As a race, we'll sling a few folks up to live in a space station every now and again. But honestly, defending or criticizing the space program is not the point of this post - I just wanted an excuse to post a Neil deGrasse Tyson picture.

The point of this post is this: in 1969, we put a man on the moon - and brought him back! And two of his friends! - with a computer that had a clock speed of 1.024 MHz.

One. Point. Oh. Two. Four. MEGAHERTZ.

While incredibly simplistic by modern standards, it's hard to overstate the concept that this was among the most important computers ever developed by mankind. We spared no expense to strap three tiny, inconsequential men to the single largest launch vehicle ever built with the express purpose of giving gravity, which had up until that point held us earthbound, a great big fuck you.

Also, it made the Russians sad. So, you know, that's nice.

But really, put it in context: This computer would have been powerful enough to guide, say, an intercontinental ballistic missile. This computer could have wiped out huge sections of the world's most strategically-important cities.

The iPhone 4S, among the world's most-popular phones, has a processor speed of about 800 MHz, which is considered slow. The low-budget smartphone in my pocket has a clock speed of just about 1GHz.

Think about that for a second.

The iPhone has enough processing power to wipe out nearly all life on earth.

Kinda makes "Words with Friends" seem like a bit of a waste, doesn - AW, WHY DO I ALWAYS DRAW THE FRIGGIN' Q AT THE VERY END?

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