Saturday, November 22, 2014

Retro Saturday: Computer for Apollo


Click the arrow to watch the documentary. Video source: alijanlondon YouTube channel.

What do you get when nerds have their own TV series? This week's Retro Saturday!

MIT Science Reporter was a public television series on WGBH in Boston in the 1950s and 1960s. To quote from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology museum web site:

In the early days of Boston public broadcasting, MIT was a main supporter of WGBH, whose Channel 2 television effort began in space rented from the Institute near the current Stratton Student Center. MIT and WGBH jointly produced MIT Science Reporter, a pioneering effort to ask scientists and engineers to explain their work to a general audience on television. The program, hosted by deep-voiced MIT science reporter John Fitch ('52), offered lengthy but easily understood interviews that represented a broad range of subjects. Shot with very few takes, the programs required intensive planning. Candid correspondence between WGBH and MIT indicates that some of the “talent” (aka the faculty) were more adept than others at giving a good interview. The goal was to increase public understanding of science and technology not only through broadcasts of the program, but also through a special lending library that made 16mm film copies available to schools and libraries across the nation.

This episode, “Computer for Apollo,” is about ... well, just what the title suggests. According to the MIT museum web site:

This 1965 “Science Reporter” television program features the Apollo guidance computer and navigation equipment, which involve less than 60 lbs of microcircuits and memory cores. Scientists and engineers Eldon Hall, Ramon Alonzo and Albert Hopkins (of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory) and Jack Poundstone (Raytheon Space Division in Waltham MA) explain and demonstrate key features of the instruments, and detail project challenges such as controlling the trajectory of the spacecraft, the operation of the onboard telescope, and the computer construction and its memory. The program was presented by MIT in association with WGBH-TV Boston, and hosted by MIT reporter John Fitch; it was produced for NASA. MIT Museum Collections.

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