Space-Grade CPUs - Ars Technica

It irks me a tiny bit every time someone trots out that tired adage “my mobile phone has 1000x more CPU power than the Space Shuttle did.” It’s one of those knowledge nuggets that ignores the reality of a situation for the sake of statement impact. The kind that PR departments everywhere absolutely adore. There are different kinds of technological progression other than raw performance.

Ars Technica published a great article today detailing just why there’s more to a space-grade CPU than clock speed -

As Russia proved in 2012, you can’t simply strap an iPhone to your spacecraft!


Absolutely amazing how 1960’s technology like wire wrapped magnetic core memory could be used in computers with limited memory (64k) and no storage, to control spacecraft with no crashes or reboots for years at a time. Memory that was impervious to cosmic ray induced single event upsets or bit failures.

And programmers, much like Steve Gibson, who could write code in assembly language that controlled all the systems required to provide autonomous operations literally for years with no updates within the 64k constraint.

So you don’t need a MacBook Pro with an i9 chip, 64mb memory, and 6tb storage to write rocket science code.