A computer which flew onboard the Apollo spacecraft during its trip to the Moon has been reprogrammed to mine bitcoin.
The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) records as one of the several technological breakthroughs for its time that allowed NASA to send a manned mission into space.
A member of a group of computer historians, Ken Shirriff, published his experience restoring the AGC in a series of posts, including his attempt to have the machine mine bitcoin.
The computer originating from a time when the average computer could fill most of a room, Shirriff says the AGC is under a cubic foot in size and weighs less than 70 pounds.
According to Shirriff, their model of the Apollo Guidance Computer is the world’s only working AGC. He explained his motivation for writing mining code on the device thus:
“Trying to mine Bitcoin on this 1960s computer seemed both pointless and anachronistic, so I had to give it a shot. Implementing the Bitcoin hash algorithm in assembly code on this 15-bit computer was challenging, but I got it to work.”
Though the AGC may have been a force in the 1960’s, the device unsurprisingly does not hold up to modern crypto mining standards.
“Unfortunately, the computer is so slow that it would take about a million times the age of the universe to successfully mine a Bitcoin block”
He used a $70 USB stick bitcoin miner, which produces more than 130 billion hashes per second, to explain the difference between the AGC and today’s technology,
“To put the AGC’s mining performance in perspective, a USB stick miner performs 130 billion hashes per second. The stick miner costs under $70, compared to $150,000 for the Apollo Guidance Computer… The enormous difference in performance is due to the exponential increase in computer speed described by Moore’s law as well as the advantage of custom Bitcoin mining hardware.”