iPhones Have 100,000 Times More Processing Power Than Apollo 11 Computer

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iPhones have over 100,000 times more processing power than the Apollo 11 computer; with 4GB of RAM they have over a million times more memory, and with 512GB of storage they have over seven million times more storage.

Despite the rapid technological advances since then, astronauts haven’t actually been back to the moon since 1972. This seems surprising. After all, when we reflect on this historic event, it is often said that we now have more computing power in our pocket than the computer aboard Apollo 11 did. But is that true? And, if so, how much more powerful are our phones?

It’s amazing to see how far technology has advanced since then.

Check It Out: iPhones Have 100,000 Times More Processing Power Than Apollo 11 Computer

iPhones Have 100,000 Times More Processing Power Than Apollo 11 Computer

15 Comments Add a comment

  1. 1252

    Someone forgot to mention the person of Werner von Braun, the father of Apollo program but also the father of V1 & V2 rockets used for terror bombing of south UK during WWII, and the same Werner von Braun former SS man and holder of the Nazi Party membership number 5,738,692.

    Your still proud Americans?

  2. aardman

    Well, if our motivation for going into outer space is to follow the example of Jamestown and Magellan, i.e. the colonization and subjugation of other lands (now, worlds) as well as the near annihilation of alien cultures and species, I’d say let’s pass on the idea.

    Frankly, the chief motivation for humans migrating into outer space is that we have trashed the planet so badly that we need to find some other place to trash. There is no vision in that. We’ve been in near space only about 60 years and look at all the junk we left in Earth’s orbit. Heck, look at all the garbage and excrement on Mt. Everest.

    As a species, H. sapiens is unparalleled in the habit of shitting where we eat. You look into the history of human migrations as far back as prehistoric times, the archaeological and paleontological evidence shows that every time humans settle into new territory, megafauna extinctions occur shortly after (in geologic time, that is). You name it –mammoths, ground sloths, cave bears, giant armadillos, moas, etc. Oh and don’t forget all those hominids that disappeared when H. sapiens moved in –Neandertals, Denisovans, etc.

    I say before we turn our heads towards outer space, how about us learning how to live on the home planet without trashing it. Once we know how to do that, then we can go explore the stars without leaving a trail of destruction and degradation behind.

    • wab95

      aardman:

      I know that this was not your argument, you’re far too intelligent a commentator for that, however your comment reminds me of the arguments against space exploration when I was child during Apollo; namely fix humanity and her planet before we waste money on space.

      We now can document not simply the interdependence and interplay between monumental undertakings like space exploration, molecular genetic based medicine and general basic science and the practical technological benefits to society that improve and extend human life, including in the low income countries where I work (my team now saves lives of children of poor families courtesy of their realtime interventions via the family smart phone; and microprocessors have assisted in reducing outdoor air pollution that was/remains a major cause of indirect mortality in these LMICs); but these undertakings have immeasurably expanded our understanding of the science behind both the damage we do to our environment and ourselves, and point to the specific remedial actions we available today that we need to take.

      History suggests that human failure and progress are activities best done in parallel, not in series, perhaps now more than ever.

      • aardman

        Yup, all I’m saying is that when we do explore outer space more extensively, let’s make sure we’re not scaling up our socially and ecologically destructive habits from a planetary to a galactic scale. And we can fix the planet **while** we’re responsibly exploring the stars; I wholeheartedly agree that the science and technology to pursue each of those goals feed into each other.

    • geoduck

      The only way we will be able to restore the earth, is by moving out there. The problem is actually not that complex. Move out into the solar system, move most of humanity off of the earth, and then restore it, or we continue to bicker over dwindling resources and a decaying environment until the last two humans kill each other with stone axes.

      There is no third option.

      There is no way to restore the earth with seven to nine billion of us squatting on it. Space exploration and colonization IS the only hope for humanity.

      • wab95

        geoduck:
        That is in fact one of the talking points and arguments regarding the case for exploration/terraforming/colonisation of the planets.

        Broadly speaking, regarding the current rationale for space exploration, there are two drivers, the vision, if you will.

        One, the quest for life in order to address the question of ‘are we alone’.

        The second, the imperative to preserve and ensure human life by extending our presence beyond our home planet, including the harnessing of extraterrestrial resources both for those colonies and for use on earth, and in this way, avoid bottlenecks and extinction level events (ELEs) in a single location.

        Both are prime drivers, often prioritised differently by different groups.

      • aardman

        I fear waiting until we are able to move H. sapiens into outer space will take too long. Can that be done in 50, or even 100 years time before serious damage from pollution and global warming sets in? Action to fix Earth is needed now. Migration into space at the envisioned massive scale is for now, given the state of technology, a pipe dream or at the very least a distant goal.

  3. wab95

    Andrew:

    I’m treated myself to my first TMO reading in weeks, and immediately caught this article. @geoduck’s comment further inspired me to take a moment and respond.

    First, the issue of computing power in our backpacks, desktops and pockets (and dare one add, on our wrists) is indeed far more powerful than that which landed us on the moon and returned us safely to the earth. I recall making a similar comment back in 1996 to a colleague as we left work, referencing my cheap HP Aero in my backpack (which was replaced just weeks later with my first Mac laptop), after he had lauded the power on the new i486 computer the department had just purchased. Each of these modern devices (perhaps not the AW but its specs are uncertain at least to me) would likely qualify as a supercomputer of that era. The wonder is lies not in the specs of our current devices, as impressive as they are, but in the state of the art technology, including computers, required to achieve the monumental ask of landing on the moon – arguably humanity’s single most remarkable technological achievement to that point in history – and that we now take for granted technology orders of magnitude more complex and capable, whose products we often deride as ‘toys’ when we’re not complaining of that technology’s limitations, upgrade cycles and failures. Referring to this technology as an embarrassment of riches would be a colossal understatement in the context of the moon landings.

    Second, as a space exploration enthusiast, Planetary Society member and consumer of astronomy and space history/exploration literature, I see the issues obstructing our return to the moon as a bit more nuanced than simply a failure of imagination, as substantial a contributor as that was. I was old enough during the Apollo era to appreciate the rapidly waning support and popular criticism of the programme after Apollo 11, which crescendoed following Apollo 13, not just in the USA but abroad where I lived, and the calls for a more earth-based focus on socio-economic problems of the day. Robert Kurson’s ‘Rocket Men’ makes clear the primary driver for getting to the moon was the cold-war era competition between the West – led by the USA – to beat the Soviet Union in a space race that was a proxy war for vindicating the superiority of these competing systems of governance. Once we achieved ‘first man to reach the moon’ in Apollo 8 and ‘first man on the moon’ with Apollo 11, it was job done. We had achieved not only our goal, but the limit of our contemporaneous vision. We still didn’t even know what the moon was or how it got be our satellite. We had yet to even do flybys, let alone landings, on the other planets.

    Fast-forward to today; we have detailed mappings of the moon, including the discovery of its water, detailed mappings of the inner planets, including multiple landings on Mars, a double-tour of the outer planets with detailed investigations of the Jovian system, Saturn including a landing on Titan, as well as the discovery of the subsurface oceans in both systems, the discovery of and visit to the Kuiper Belt, including a visit to the Pluto-Charon binary and the indirect evidence of another large planet in that Belt, and finally the determination and penetration of the solar bubble and the emergence into interstellar space. In short, we just woke up. For the first time in history, a plurality if not majority of human beings realise that stars are other suns with their own orbiting planets, and that we live in a nondescript section of just one amongst billions of other galaxies in an expanding universe. We are now an interstellar species that is space-aware, which we were not in 1969. In short, our knowledge and understanding of space has expanded nearly as exponentially as has our computational power to further explore it.

    Whatever vision we had 50 years ago, it is safe to say that it pales in comparison to what we have now. Importantly, our history underscores that progress is not linear, but episodic, characterised by great leaps of achievement followed by plateaus, rather than steady incremental expansion of civilisation however defined. Recognising our resource limitations, we are now far more deliberate and evidence-driven in our selection of each successive space-faring mission, and far more cognisant of the perils inherent in manned space travel – none of which applied to 1969, let alone the technology to even monitor and figure these out. We now know what we can do on the moon, where to land on Mars, and most importantly how and why, none of which has to do with a proxy war.

    I, for one, am confident that our ‘lost time’ was not truly a waste but a chrysalis, from which we are emerging as a more confident, focussed, and capable space-faring species, and that it lies within our capacity to accelerate and blow passed wherever we might have been with a fraught-filled and incremental progress from the 1960’s.

    • aardman

      And if you notice, the mindset of space exploration since the very beginning is “build stuff, send it into outer space, then leave it as junk when we’re done using it.” Yes I understand, given the scale of things right now, the junk we leave out there (i.e. beyond earth’s orbit) is negligible. We also thought at one time that the Earth is so big, we couldn’t possibly damage it the way we are doing now. People who are advocates of space exploration should also be, from the very start, advocates of space environmentalism. Let’s have a vision for going into outer space **without trashing it**. Deal with the junk, pollution, and degradation from the very start so it never reaches the scale that it has on our planet.

      • wab95

        aardman:

        I couldn’t agree more.

        In fact, environmental science is a substantial and protected fraction of this year’s proposed NASA budget. There are new and emerging private sector industries looking at cleaning up the space debris, and current missions are required to have a peer-reviewed and working plan to responsibly dispose of end-of-mission waste, as opposed to leaving it in space. What’s more, these new industries will have collateral benefit to other aspects of space exploration and earth-based environmental protection.

        Importantly, given that we now have more actively space-exploring nations, due diligence has become a mutually recognised imperative.

        Finally, there is an acknowledged and growing synergy between planetary science specially and earth-based environmental science with practical spinoff. Space exploration has become an effect modifier and conduit to protecting our home planet – beginning with that 1968 earth-rise photo from Apollo 8.

  4. marcsten

    As I watched Nat. Geo’s remarkable feature about Apollo 11 last week, I wondered at two things. One: that we made it at all with the computers and other tools available, even more remarkable when you ponder Apollo 13. But I also wondered what we have done since then. The space station, SkyLab, the Hubbel. No where near as much of a leap or as big a dream as Apollo 11 represented. We don’t dream big any more as a nation. But would we have even gone to the moon if not for the competition from the then USSR? Probably not as soon, if at all. Maybe we need to think about outside competition and stop fighting with ourselves all the time

  5. geoduck

    Despite the rapid technological advances since then, astronauts haven’t actually been back to the moon since 1972. This seems surprising.

    Not really. Think of it this way, we got to the moon and back with the primitive tools of the day. It isn’t a technological problem. I won’t even say it has been a money problem. Though while many leaders have given lip service to moving beyond low earth orbit, they always balk at the price. No, it has been the WILL that has been lacking. The vision has been lacking. We have been cursed with half a century of leaders that only think about redrawing the map on this speck, not moving out and creating new ones. Of leaders that think only about the next two year election or fiscal cycle, not what is good for their grandchildren. Of leaders that see the cost of everything but not the value of anything. We don’t have a colony on the moon and footprints on mars because the public does not see the value and leaders have not made the case for it.

    NASA needs to move beyond the teflon pans level of justification for space exploration. They need to make the case for it because of the tangible benefits to having people permanently living throughout the solar system

    Leaders need to take that case and sell it to the public. Make the public understand why it is the most important job of the next half century.

    The public needs to wake up, be woken up, to the fact that we have two choices. We can go up and out into space, or civilization will go down a drain of fewer resources, fewer opportunities, and lower living standards. Once people understand that they can wallow in the polluted swamp, or start a new life on mars, the moon, asteroids, then they will, much as they did with the discovery of the Americas some five hundred years ago, want to go there.

    But it all has to start with vision.

    • davebarnes

      “But it all has to start with vision.”
      And, an acceptance that people will die. Nothing is 100% safe.

      • geoduck

        Exactly, remember the Jamestown colony. Magellan and two of his ships did not make it back Exploration is risky but the benefits outweigh the losses

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