Just What Do You Think You're Doing, Dave?

How Apollo's astronauts learned to work with--and around--their computers

2 min read

In 1961, the average rocket-borne computer ran on average for 15 hours before an electronics ­failure crashed it. That ­dismal ­performance record didn’t matter much to the ­military, whose suborbital ­missiles required only ­minutes of computer on-time. But a manned moon shot required that computers run 1500 hours between failures.

As David Mindell points out in Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight , NASA’s project managers not only met that 1500-hour goal but greatly overshot it. When Neil Armstrong and his compatriots strode on the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972, the total mean time between ­failures of the onboard computers turned out to be closer to 50 000 hours.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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