Over the last few decades, technology has rapidly advanced. Those born in the 90s might have a harder time recognizing the influence that technology has had on society as a whole. The most obvious example of this rapid development is shown through the use of the iPhone: an iPhone with 4GB of RAM packs more than one million times more memory than NASA’s Apollo computer. The Apollo 11 Guidance Computer (AGC) ran at .043 MHz. The iPhone processor runs around 2,490 MHz or about 100,000 times more processing power.
Onboard the Apollo, the AGC held 2048 words of memory, which stored temporary results, meaning with the loss of power, the data would also be lost. This refers to the AGC’s RAM, or random access memory. Each of the 2048 words was comprised of 16 binary digits (bits that are either a one or a zero). This means the AGC had 32,768 bits of RAM. As mentioned above, the average iPhone comes with 4GB of RAM or 34,359,738,368 bits, and along with the exponentially increased memory storage, a loss of power does not result in the loss of any memory.
RAM is not the only way that iPhone technology has surpassed that of the Apollo. The iPhone 6, released in September of 2014, holds about 1.6 billion transistors capable of processing over 3 billion instructions per second, whereas the AGC could perform about several thousand addition-operations per second. This means the technology in the iPhone could be used to guide 120,000,000 Apollo-era spacecrafts to the moon– at the same time.
While technology advanced and developed over the decades, the costs required to produce mass technology on such a scale has also decreased. The Apollo 11 Guidance Computer cost Nasa approximately $3.5 million individually, and each computer was the size of a car. On the other hand, the most expensive iPhone 6 is just under $500.
The iPhone isn’t the only piece of technology to out-power the AGC. Today’s USB stick and Wifi router are more powerful than Apollo 11’s mainframes. What’s even more, a lone pocket calculator holds more RAM, processing power and memory than the technology that took humankind to the moon.
In around 50 years, technology has evolved to the point that the extent of its involvement and influence on everyday life is not readily apparent. If technology continues to develop in the rapid progression it has in the last half of a century, it is hard to even imagine what society will look like 50 years from today.