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Code that sent Apollo 11 to the moon available online

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12 July 2016

The programming code that controlled the flight software for Apollo 11 had been uploaded to the popular code sharing website GitHub for the first time.

The uploaded code not only give programmers today, a look into the past, it also contains pop culture references from the mid-1960s, which makes it something of a time capsule.

The code is the creation of programmers at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory in the mid-1960s who were tasked with making it from scratch as the technology needed to send the craft to the moon simply did not exist at the time.

In order to pull it off therefore, the team created a new way for computers to store programs called 'rope memory', reports Keith Collins from Quartz, which used an assembly programming language that was hugely complex to read, a task made all the harder for today's programmers who mostly had never used assembly before.

The code now on GitHub known as the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) code went public when MIT uploaded scanned pictures of it years ago.

However, it was not until 2003 when a man named Ron Burkey manually typed out every line and uploaded it to the internet back in 2003.

"It was scanned by an airplane pilot named Gary Neff in Colorado," Burkey told Quartz. "MIT got hold of the scans and put them online in the form of page images, which unfortunately had been mutilated in the process to the point of being unreadable in places."

Meanwhile, users at Reddit seemed to have have a good time sifting through the comments eating up the in-jokes and pop culture references. The master ignition routine, for example, was named "Burn, Baby, Burn," the slogan of the popular DJ Magnificent Montague that became a chant during the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles. Another section of code is called "Trashy Little Subroutines."

In "PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHTS.s,," the coder inserts some lines of Shakespeare.

# THE FOLLOWING QUOTATION IS PROVIDED THROUGH THE COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS.

# "IT WILL BE PROVED TO THY FACE THAT THOU HAST MEN ABOUT THEE THAT

# USUALLY TALK OF A NOUN AND A VERB, AND SUCH ABOMINABLE WORDS AS NO

# CHRISTIAN EAR CAN ENDURE TO HEAR."

# HENRY 6, ACT 2, SCENE 4

According to commentators, it was not known why, exactly, the bard appeared in the Apollo code, though, according to Reddit users, it was because the AGC  code was input as two-digit numbers, one called the noun, the other the verb.





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