Which household appliance is more technologically advanced than Apollo 11’s computers?

Which common household appliance is more technologically advanced than Apollo 11’s computers?

Answer: A Toaster

The command module computer responsible for mankind’s inaugural moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s famous (misheard) words was no more advanced than a pocket calculator and “more basic than the electronics in modern toasters that have computer controlled stop/start/defrost buttons.” The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was designed at MIT and used a real-time operating system, which allowed the astronauts to operate the spacecraft by simply entering pairs of nouns and verbs. At the time, this technology was considered cutting edge. But by today’s standards, the AGC is comparable to the technology in a calculator that can help a middle schooler find the sum of two large numbers or the toaster that warmed the bagel that you may have had for breakfast this morning.

Apollo Guidance Computer

A photograph of Armstrong taken by Aldrin. This is one of the few photographs of Armstrong on the lunar surface; most of the time he had the camera.

With that being said, this same technology has served as the foundation for modern computers. Computer Weekly states that the AGC was “fundamental to the evolution of the integrated circuit.” In a lecture delivered by astronaut David Scott, he describes how impossibly difficult it is to return safely from the moon: “If you have a basketball and a baseball 14 feet apart, where the baseball represents the moon and the basketball represents the Earth, and you take a piece of paper sideways, the thinness of the paper would be the corridor you have to hit when you come back.”

Apollo Guidance Computer

Aldrin salutes the deployed United States flag on the lunar surface.

This bit of information lends itself to one simple fact: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were three extraordinarily capable individuals whose margin to succeed was so slim that President Nixon prepared a statement for the American public in the event that the astronauts were not able to safely return home. But with the help of the AGC, return home they did, leaving a mark on history far more permanent than the one left by Armstrong’s boot on the surface of the moon.

Aldrin next to the Passive Seismic Experiment Package with Eagle in the background

Cover Photo: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, in a photograph taken by Neil Armstrong. Photo by History in HD on Unsplash