Did you know that your smartphone is more powerful than a supercomputer? Here’s a fun-fact for you
Humans set foot on the Moon for the first time in 1969. If you aren’t a rocket scientist, it is indeed difficult to imagine the technological complications of landing on the Moon more than five decades ago. Still, one thing sure: computers played a significant role – even back Even though that NASA systems were too basic as compared to today’s standards. However, they were capable enough of safely guiding humans across 356,000 kilometres of space from Earth to the Moon and return. For the first time, crucial security and propulsion systems in spacecraft were operated by software during the Apollo missions. These developments laid the foundation for modern computing.
How your smartphone is more powerful than a supercomputer?
FYI: Apollo 11 spacecraft (July 1969) was the first to land humans on the Moon.
The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), a now-ancient command module computer built at MIT, was critical to the lunar missions. The computing system had an operating system that enabled astronauts to type in nouns and verbs, converted into instructions for their spacecraft. AGC used a compiler named Luminary to power the hardware with built-in machine code instructions.
A pocket calculator, or even a Type C- USB adapter, has more computing power than the most powerful machines used to launch astronauts to the Moon. And a smartphone is more powerful than a supercomputer that was made in the year 1969.
However, apart from AGC, the IBM System/360 Model 75s mainframe computer was used by thousands of flight mechanics and computer scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center to perform independent calculations and establish contact between Earth and moon landers.
These machines were the size of a car and cost $3.5 million each. Each had a total memory capacity of several megabytes and could perform hundreds of thousands of addition operations per second. The 75s had programs that tracked the spacecraft’s environmental parameters and astronauts’ wellbeing, and they were the most complex software ever created at the time.
Today, however, even an essential USB stick or WiFi router, let alone an iPhone, will outperform these mainframes. The Apple iPhone 6 has a 64-bit Cortex A8 ARM architecture with 1.6 billion transistors engineered by Apple. It has a clock speed of 1.4 GHz and can process approximately 1.2 instructions per cycle in each of its two cores. That means 3.36 billion instructions are sent every second. Simply stated, the iPhone 6’s clock is 32,600 times faster than the best Apollo-era computers systems, and it can execute instructions 120,000,000 times faster. You wouldn’t be mistaken if you said an iPhone could simultaneously direct 120,000,000 Apollo-era spacecraft to the Moon.
Computers are so popular nowadays that even a pocket calculator has much more processing power, RAM, and memory than the Apollo era’s state-of-the-art computing. For example, Texas Instruments TI-84 calculator, released in 2004, was 350 times faster than Apollo computers, with 32 times more RAM and 14,500 times more ROM.
Even USB-C chargers outperform Apollo computers in terms of speed. The Anker PowerPort Atom PD 2 has a clock speed of 48 times that of the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer and 1.8 times the application memory. And now imagine how much capacity does your smartphone have? your smartphone is more powerful than a supercomputer.
However, what I think is that such comparisons aren’t fair. It’s like comparing the first aircraft built by the Wright Brothers to an F-22 Raptor, right? Sure, they can both travel, but they are ages apart in terms of technology. Anyways, the iPhone outperforms one of the most popular — and much more recent — supercomputers in history: IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer, which defeated Garry Kasparov in a historic chess match in 1997. So perhaps not as much as it should be, but still, your smartphone is more powerful than a supercomputer.
With this in mind, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the level of advanced technology computing capacity that each of us possesses at our fingertips.
Smartphones and supercomputers have been a reason for debate for a long time. Just take a second, and imagine the kind of device you’ll be using in 20 years. This smartphone is more powerful than a supercomputer, but that one would surpass the normal conception of a computing system.