This Programmer Created a Lunar Lander Game for the Apollo Guidance Computer

Which just recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11’s moon landing, which marked the first time humans set foot on the moon. While computers certainly did exist in 1969, they were large, power-hungry, and incredibly slow by modern computers. The Apollo Guidance Computer, which was responsible for getting Apollo 11 to the moon, was developed specifically for the job and hasn’t been used since the Apollo program ended. David Given has, however, developed a brand new lunar lander game to run on the Apollo Guidance Computer.

To be upfront, this isn’t actually running on a real Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), as there is only one working example still in existence. Instead, Given has this running on a Virtual AGC simulator. That said, the simulator is true to the functionality and capability of the real AGC, and this game could theoretically run on the real thing. And that’s quite the feat, as the AGC was a very strange computer — even for the era. It was all hand-wired, had ferrite core memory, and had a very unusual instruction set. Interestingly, the AGC was responsible for approximately 25 percent of all ICs (Integrated Circuits) produced at the time, so you have NASA to thank for modern technology.

The lunar lander game is quite basic, and doesn’t have any graphics. That’s because the AGC itself didn’t have any graphical output. Instead, players approach the game like they’re actually operating the lunar lander. They do so by monitoring readouts on virtual numerical displays, and by using the simulated keypad and joystick to provide control. If you want to play it yourself, Given has made it available. It will take some technical skill to run though, as setting up the Virtual AGC and loading the game’s code is quite complicated. Even so, we can’t think of a better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

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Author: Cameron Coward

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