<<The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was a digital computer produced for the Apollo program that was installed on board each Apollo command module (CM) and Apollo Lunar Module (LM). The AGC provided computation and electronic interfaces for guidance, navigation, and control of the spacecraft. The AGC has a 16-bit word length, with 15 data bits and one parity bit. Most of the software on the AGC is stored in a special read-only memory known as core rope memory, fashioned by weaving wires through magnetic cores, though a small amount of read-write core memory is available.
Astronauts communicated with the AGC using a numeric display and keyboard called the DSKY (for display & keyboard, pronounced 'DISS-key'). The AGC and its DSKY user interface were developed in the early 1960s for the Apollo program by the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory and first flew in 1966. The AGC was one of the first integrated circuit-based computers. The computer's performance was comparable to the first generation of home computers from the late 1970s, such as the Apple II, TRS-80, and Commodore PET. The Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) is a line of home/personal computers produced starting in 1977 [that] formed the basis for their entire 8-bit product line, including the Commodore 64.
Astronauts manually flew Project Gemini with control sticks, but computers flew most of Project Apollo except briefly during lunar landings. Each Moon flight carried two AGCs, one each in the command module and the lunar module, with the exception of Apollo 8 which did not need a lunar module for its lunar orbit mission. The AGC in the command module was the center of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system. The AGC in the lunar module ran its Apollo PGNCS (primary guidance, navigation and control system), with the acronym pronounced as pings.
PGNCS generated unanticipated warnings during Apollo 11's lunar descent, with the AGC showing a 1201 alarm ("Executive overflow - no vacant areas") and a 1202 alarm ("Executive overflow - no core sets"). The cause was a rapid, steady stream of spurious cycle steals from the rendezvous radar (tracking the orbiting command module), intentionally left on standby during the descent in case it was needed for an abort.
During this part of the approach, the processor would normally be almost 85% loaded. The extra 6,400 cycle steals per second added the equivalent of 13% load, leaving just enough time for all scheduled tasks to run to completion. Five minutes into the descent, Buzz Aldrin gave the computer the command 1668, which instructed it to periodically calculate and display DELTAH (the difference between altitude sensed by the radar and the computed altitude) The 1668 added an additional 10% to the processor workload, causing executive overflow and a 1202 alarm. After being given the "GO" from Houston, Aldrin entered 1668 again and another 1202 alarm occurred. When reporting the second alarm, Aldrin added the comment "It appears to come up when we have a 1668 up". The AGC software had been designed with priority scheduling, and automatically recovered, deleting lower priority tasks including the 1668 display task, to complete its critical guidance and control tasks. Guidance controller Steve Bales and his support team that included Jack Garman issued several "GO" calls and the landing was successful. For his role, Bales received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of the entire control center team and the three Apollo astronauts.>>