Apollo Guidance Computer on ibiblio

Screenshot of AGC


I got the idea while watching the movie Apollo 13. The instant in the movie where the AGC is powered up on Earth approach is the instant when the viewer suddenly feels that survival of the astronauts has changed from “highly unlikely” to “very probable”. It gives me a chill whenever I see it. Anyhow, on watching this one day, it struck me that it was a shame nobody knew any longer how to operate the AGC—let alone write the programs for it. (As it happens, that thought was a bit premature: only 35 years had passed since the AGC software was written, thus many of the original software developers were still reasonably young. Nevertheless, the principle is correct, since very few people could use or program the AGC.)

It had been a long journey for the AGC from the original mission computer in 1970 to the movie release in 1995 to the film inspiring Ron Burkey as he viewed it in 2003. Then not long after, Ron began recreate a simulation and later a physical version of the AGC.

Along the way, Ron collected documentation, scanned and transcribed code, and built a space for collaboration and dissemination at ibiblio/apollo.

The site and collection greater than a decade in the making recently received more attention as the code was placed for download in a github repository.

But to experience the technical complexity and to work on the project yourself, you’ll want to visit Ron’s site. You might want to begin with the ”Kinder Gentler Introduction” to the AGC unless you know a bit about the period and the Apollo already.

Like code today, the comments are as amusing as the coding. My favorite is a misattributed Shakespeare quote:

THE FOLLOWING QUOTATION IS PROVIDED THROUGH THE COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS.

“IT WILL BE PROVED TO THY FACE THAT THOU HAST MEN ABOUT THEE THAT USUALLY TALK OF A NOUN AND A VERB, AND SUCH ABOMINABLE WORDS AS NO CHRISTIAN EAR CAN ENDURE TO HEAR.”
HENRY 6, ACT 2, SCENE 4

Good quote for programmers of that era, but from Henry 6 – Part 2, Act 4, Scene 7. Obviously a slight typo from past times.

Project Gutenberg has it as: “It will be prooued to thy Face, that thou hast men about thee, that vsually talke of a Nowne and a Verbe, and such abhominable wordes, as no Christian eare can endure to heare.”

Luckily an error in a comment in an attribution wasn’t fatal to the flight or to the project.

Read, learn and prepare for lift off!

Apollo patch

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 23, 2016
CONTACT: Henry P. Mills, Director, The Walker Percy Project
wppdirector@gmail.com (email)
www.ibiblio.org/wpercy (web)

Literary Website Celebrates Walker Percy Centennial (1916–2016) on May 28

The Walker Percy Project launches mission to provide access to the author’s work for all audiences.

Asheville, NC, May 23 — Walker Percy (1916–1990), the acclaimed late-20th century Louisiana novelist and philosopher, published six novels and three nonfiction books, as well as many social commentaries. His first novel, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award in 1962.

The 100th anniversary of his birth arrives Saturday, May 28, 2016, and numerous regional events are being held in honor of the Percy Centennial, notably:

  • Dedication of the “Walker Percy Serenity Circle” — featuring a life-sized sculpture of Percy — and Reading Room at the St. Tammany Parish Library in Madisonville, La.
  • Publication of the new essay collection, Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer at Fifty, by LSU Press
  • A special 3-day “Walker Percy Weekend” festival in St. Francisville, La. (June 3–5)
  • Publication of a book of previously unreleased photographs: Walker Percy: Daylight and Dark
  • The Conference on Christianity & Literature, Southeast Region, on the Walker Percy Centennial
  • The launch of The Walker Percy Project website and its expanded educational resources and services

Details about these Centennial events — and much more — are accessible on The Walker Percy Project interactive website at <www.ibiblio.org/wpercy>.

The biblio.org Network of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (whose libraries house the “Walker Percy Papers”) hosts the online resource, although the website is not formally affiliated with the university.

The Project is officially launching its website, a non-profit educational resource, in time to coincide with the Centennial. The Project’s volunteer director Henry P. Mills says,

“The exciting aspect of the website is that it combines the best features of an encyclopedia with the ongoing activities of a conference. Visitors — from curious readers to serious scholars — can actively engage in ideas and discussions related to Walker Percy.”

As a free clearinghouse of centralized resources on the author’s work and life, the website provides visitors with opportunities for personal sharing and collaboration through discussion forums, as well as access to wide-ranging materials, including:

  • Current news on public and scholarly activities and publications related to Walker Percy
  • Remembrances and Memorials from Eudora Welty, Shelby Foote, and Robert Coles, M.D.
  • Critical essays for novice and advanced readers from Percy biographers and literary scholars
  • Multimedia, including video and photograph galleries
  • Book descriptions for books on and by Walker Percy
  • Interactive features, such as Exhibits, Quizzes, and Curated web links
  • Bibliographies and archive collections
  • Educational resources and student projects

With the tagline “Access, Community, Discovery,” The Walker Percy Project encourages active exploration into Percy’s writings, life, and thought. Through its integration with an email-based interest group (the Percy-L listserv), the website lets readers and students participate in discussions and research. Mark Bloom, President of The Walker Percy Project, offers,

“The in-depth resources I discovered on the website greatly expanded my appreciation for Percy as a writer, so much so I felt compelled to get involved to learn more about him and help the Project grow.”

The Walker Percy Project website has received recognition from influential publications such as: New Orleans Magazine, Austin American-Statesman, Texas Monthly, The Southern Quarterly, Modern Language Association, and The Southern Register. The Project is dedicated to keeping Walker Percy’s work and critical thought on the “human predicament” and his concern with our comparable “displacement in the modern world” in the mainstream.

For more information on this story, please contact Henry P. Mills, the volunteer director and editor of The Walker Percy Project, at .
Please refer to the Project’s website at <www.ibiblio.org/wpercy>.

Happy 20th Anniversary to Roger McGuinn’s Folk Den Project

Folk Den: Roger McGuinn in the Folk Tradition

It was 20 years ago that Roger McGuinn — whose musical credentials include playing with the Limelighters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Bobby Darin, founding the Byrds and with them inventing folk rock, touring with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — decided that on the first day of each month he would upload a recording of a folk song, create a page with lyrics, tablature, and a brief bit about each song and share it all for free with everyone.

That first song was one had first I heard my father sing, based on I think the same version sung by Woody Guthrie and the Almanac Singers, “I Ride an Old Paint.” That song was also sampled as part of Aaron Copland’s Rodeo and in Virgil Thomson’s film score for The Plow that Broke the Plains.” I still don’t know what a hoolian or houlihan might be or why one would throw it, but I love the simple tune and the way Roger’s Martin D-12-45 is played on this first Folk Den song.

Kenton Adler at the University of Arkansas, who was later to appear in the liner notes to the CD collection Treasures from the Folk Den, hosted the first Folk Den site.

It wasn’t long though before Kenton started running out of room and out of bandwidth. We had just been given one of the first Real Audio servers at what is now ibiblio.org. We offered Kenton some relief and Roger a new home for the Folk Den which while only a few months old was obviously a treasure trove in the offing and in the offering of free for all to hear music.

We later helped Roger move the Folk Den to the higher quality MP3 format — and all along he never missed a month. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with Roger on the Folk Den.

The 240th song for the 20th anniversary of the Folk Den is There a Meetin’ Here Tonight. In a personal note about the song selection, Roger says:

In 1960 The Limeliters hired me as an accompanist on banjo and guitar. One of the songs in their setlist was “There’s A Meetin’ Here Tonight.” Bob Gibson had rearranged and sanitized an old Methodist camp meeting song by taking the words “sinner” and “Satan” out. This is the original version as would have been sung in the nineteenth century in rural North America.
I thought this would be an appropriate way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Folk Den with one of the first songs I played professionally over 55 years ago.