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2017-02-20
  • Weirdly, on the Colossus page, I noticed that my description of Apollo 12 didn't show a Colossus revision number at all, while Apollo 13 showed Apollo 12's revision number, and Apollo 14 showed Apollo 13's revision number.  Yikes!  Anyway, that has been fixed.
  • Added a couple of nice, new documents to the document library, along with references to them on the Luminary and Colossus pages, where appropriate:
  • A number of documents salvaged from NASA's now-crippled NTRS system are in the process of being added to the document library, although at this point it has mainly been a bunch of Instrumentation Lab status reports to NASA ... interesting if you are keen on that kind of thing, but not chock-full of useful technical data.  They do track the number of words of AGC memory used for implementing various areas of functionality over time, which had fairly-important design consequences, so they are certainly useful in that regard.
  • Belatedly realized that we already had a non-Raytheon document associated with the experimental Auxiliary Memory (AM) which the Raytheon-written AGC program SuperJob (announced here a couple of weeks ago) tests and demonstrates.  The document in question, an Instrumentation Lab document, E-2254, is actually extremely informative, so I've linked it in with the general information about SuperJob on the Luminary page.
2017-02-19
Don Eyles has squirreled away ~200 "LUMINARY Memos", out of the ~250 such memos that are known to exist.  These are documents that the MIT Instrumentation Lab used to track the development of the Luminary software.  Don has scanned around half of these for us so far, with the other half presumably forthcoming within the next few months.  To handle this vast glut of incoming documents, I've given them their own section in the document-library page.  There's lots of notable stuff there, but what stands out for me are:
  • There are many, many memos describing the changes incorporated into various builds of the Luminary software, starting with Luminary 4 and ending up with Luminary 209.  Since one of our long-term goals here is to understand how the AGC software evolved over time, this is naturally a huge help.
  • There are a number of memos that give us more insight into what Zerlina is doing, and how.  You may recall that Zerlina was an experimental program, branched from Luminary, and used to experiment with a number of new approaches.  Furthermore, we will be obtaining Zerlina within the next few months, and going through our usual process of transcribing it into source code and running it in the AGC simulator.  So it's nice to have some idea of what we can expect it to be doing.
2017-02-17
  • I belatedly realized that some changes made to this website a few months ago to enable full functionality of the "staging version" of the website (at our GitHub repo) actually destroy the ability to correctly mirror the main website or to run it from local storage without an internet connection.  That has now been fixed.  However, the staging website will no longer be full-functionality, in the sense that clicking within it to links in our document library will no longer work, because the (~11GB) document library is not itself stored on GitHub.
  • I also belatedly realized that a different change to the website a few months ago, using a bit of JavaScript to make sure the banners on all of the sites pages were identical and easy to maintain, obviously would not work if JavaScript was disabled, and would simply make the site unnavigable.  That has been fixed, so that the site is at least minimally navigable (and displays a warning message) if JavaScript is disabled in the browser.
  • Added a few more factoids to the FAQ (FAQtoids?) about mirroring the website, privacy concerns, associated websites, and so forth.
2017-02-16
  • Added yet another amusing anecdote about TRW's John Norton to the FAQ.
  • For all of the AGC program listings which we've had scanned in the last 6 months or so (which is a lot!), we've only been hosting reduced-quality (though adequate) page images here at our main website, while the full-quality scans have been available instead at our "collection" in the Internet Archive.  However, that hasn't been quite true for the AGC scans we made prior to that  (Artemis 72, Colossus 237, Colossus 249, Comanche 55, Luminary 99, Solarium 55).  For those AGC scans, we've been hosting just the low-resolution imagery.  The higher-resolution raw data from the scans has existed only on my own personal computers and backups, though you could have gotten it from me if you asked for it.  Well, that situation has changed, and I've now uploaded all of the raw scan data to our Internet Archive collection.  Now, I'll have to admit that, archival format or not, the visual quality is still rotten in comparison to the new scans, because I didn't understand things like white-balance settings when I took the pictures.  Nevertheless, all of you (rather than I alone) now have access to the best-quality imagery available.  Furthermore, in the future, I'll also be doing the same with any image files sent to me or that I personally scan. Incidentally, since AGC listings are big documents in comparison to what the Internet Archive normally handles, the initial processing on them may not yet be complete on all of these uploads if you rush over there right this instant to look at them; if the initial processing isn't complete, only the actually-uploaded data (gigantic PDFs 250MB-1.5GB in size) will be immediately accessible.  After the processing is completed, you also have a convenient online flipbook viewing interface, a zipfile of JPEG2000 page images, and a more-compact PDF with searchable text.  Solarium 55 is definitely ready for viewing at the moment I'm writing this, and the others should gradually become available over the next few days.  Documents I end up scanning but which turn out not to be suitable for Virtual AGC proper, will simply remain in the Internet Archive collection; for example, you'll find a Shuttle document there that I happened to scan while scanning some AGC-related documents.
  • I've also been busily correcting all of the metadata for the scans hosted in our Internet Archive collection, since we hadn't initially provided very good data at the time archive.org was making the scans.
  • Three new documents pertaining to Apollo 4, 5, and 6 have been contributed by AGC developer Jay Sampson.  (Refer to the Sunburst 120 section of the Luminary page, and the Solarium 54 and 55 sections of the Colossus page.)
  • Original AGC developer Jay Sampson, who was instrumental in creating the AGC code for the unmanned Apollo 4 and 6 missions, has convinced us that the AGC versions used for these two missions (Solarium 54 and 55, respectively) are in fact identical though assigned different build numbers.  In other words, we in fact have the AGC source code for Apollo 4, even though we didn't know we had it.  I won't proclaim that discovery in a big box just yet, though!  You can read the explanation in the Solarium 54 entry on the Colossus page.
  • Original AGC developer Peter Volante has sent me a variety of organization charts for the Instrumentation Lab's Apollo development, which help to show how the organization evolved over time, and how the people within it moved around.  I've added them as complementary to the list of developers gleaned from the AGC source code, in the Acknowledgements section of the website's home page.
  • Some documents salvaged from NTRS were added:
    • Clean copies of R-500, volumes 1 and 2.
  • Added an Internet Archive link to the headers on all the pages of this site, to take you directly to our "collection" at archive.org.
2017-02-15
A number of new documents for the document library were added.  Highlights are:
2017-02-12
2017-02-11
  • I forgot to mention it, but proof-reading the program comments in Artemis 72 (Apollo 15-17 LM) has now been completed, and the improved source-code files have been available in our GitHub repo for a few days.  The quality of the scan or the printout from which the scan was made was pretty poor, though, so there are likely to be more errors remaining than in many of the other AGC versions.  Nevertheless, there's a great improvement.
  • We have had Luminary 131 (Apollo 13 LM software) scanned from a copy in Don Eyles's possession.  Old-timers here may recall that the availability of a Luminary 131 scan was what enabled this entire Virtual AGC project in the first place, back in the day, and without it, none of this mighty empire of AGCosity would exist at all.  Nevertheless, there's no getting around the fact that that original scan was miserable in quality, barely legible, and practically a study of how a scan of a color document shouldn't be.  In fact, many of the errors in AGC program comments I mentioned above, and have been mentioning for the last several months, stemmed originally from that very unreadability, but the new scan will now be used to finally eliminate those errors from our Luminary 131 source-code files.  So we're lucky that we now have a really great scan.  Check it out in our local "low" quality version, or in the higher-quality version at archive.org.
  • New documents in document library:
  • Added various additional comments from one of the original authors (on the document-library page itself) for the rendezvous-procedures document I added yesterday.
  • Finally got around to putting a table of contents in the FAQ; it was simply too unwieldy without one.
  • Added various material from AGC developers and other correspondents to the Tell Us More Amusing Stories section of the FAQ.
2017-02-10 Added a cool document to the document library, "LM Rendezvous Procedures, G Mission" by Grega and Neily, which should be very useful for anyone wanting to fly simulated G or H missions, and likely J missions ... i.e., Apollo 11-17, though 11 and 15-17 are the only ones of those for which we have both the CM and LM software at present, and hence the only ones for which you could presently do a rendezvous.  Thanks to Clark Neily for sending this!  Even if you're not interested in rendezvous procedures, check out the document's title page for a real hoot.   More material related to this topic will be forthcoming in the near future.
2017-02-07 A very significant LVDC-related document has been added to the document library, namely IBM's "Saturn Instrument Unit LVDC Equation Defining Document (EDD) for the Saturn IB Flight Program", divided into 7 PDFs due to its size:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.  Thanks to Riley Rainey for acquiring this, and the University of Alabama Huntsville's M. Louis Salmon Library for making it available at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center archive.
2017-02-04
  • Although it's not necessarily usable in the AGC simulator yet (because the simulated resources for it don't exist), I think we can now say that
Transcribed source code for SuperJob (Raytheon's Auxiliary Memory test
program) is now available, as well as syntax-highlighted, colorized HTML.

  • Niklas Beug has been looking at the archives of the University of Houston, Clear Lake (UHCL), and with the assistance of the very helpful archivists there has found some documents of interest to us.  The first of these (with apparently more to come) have arrived, and naturally have immediately been put into our document library:
    • The previously-missing section 5 (Guidance Equations) of the Skylark (Apollo-Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz CM) Guidance System Operations Plan (GSOP).
    • CSM/LM Spacecraft Operational Data Book, volume I, CSM data book, Part I "Constraints and Performance", rev 3.  (Previously we had only volume III, Mass Properties, rev 2.)  Interestingly, the document has Appendices for CSM 109 (Apollo 13), 110 (14), 112 (15), 113 (16), and 114 (Apollo 17), though the table of contents says incorrectly that 109 and 110 have been deleted from the book.
2017-02-03
As I mentioned a few days ago, our scan of the 1971 simulation of the Apollo 11 landing leaves somewhat to be desired in terms of the readability of the text ... it's just too light for comfortable reading, because the printout was too light.  Thus, to compensate for that, I had provided a highly-processed B&W PDF that is much-more readable.  Well, I've now done some additional processing on the color images, to enhance the readability to the best of my admittedly-meager abilities, so I've posted the reprocessed color images as an additional alternative.  They're not uniformly good, but I think they're an improvement over the full-resolution scan at archive.org.
2017-02-02
  • Another digital simulation, this time of the Apollo 17 landing, also from Don Eyles's personal collection, with the scanning again financed by Fabrizio Bernardini, is now available on our Luminary page.  Thanks again, Fabrizio!
  • I was mildly chided for not including the link to the local B&W imagery for the Apollo 11 landing's digital simulation that I announced last time.  I did this intentionally because it's a 92MB PDF file that I didn't want to be idly downloaded, so I wanted you to go to the Luminary page if you were interested ... but that's daft reasoning, and all you needed was a warning that it's a big file.  Here's the direct link to the PDF.  (In contrast, the Apollo 17 link above is to a folder full of JPGs.)
2017-01-29
  • The first of several digital simulations of moon landings that we're having scanned from Don Eyles's personal collection has finally arrived.  This first one, done in 1971, is of an Apollo 11 landing.  Thanks to Don and to Fabrizio Bernardini for financially sponsoring the scanning.  Note that it is presently mislabeled in the full-color scans at archive.org as "Luminary 131", and the sponsorship is misrepresented, but presumably this will be fixed soon.  The scans are also very low-contrast and hard-to-read, so I've provided reprocessed B&W imagery to get around that.  Read the Apollo 11 entry on the Luminary page for lots more info.
  • A very interesting AGC program written by Raytheon rather than the MIT Instrumentation Lab has surfaced.  (It was actually buried as an appendix to a Raytheon document on the NASA's now-defunct technical reports server, NTRS, which of course made it almost but not quite impossible to find.  But better late than never!)  We've dubbed this program "Super Job" because of the markings on it, though it's hard to believe that Raytheon actually called it that.  At any rate, there's lots more to read about it on the Luminary page.
  • The proof-reading of the transcribed source code for the Luminary 69 program has finally been completed, so I'm now making an official announcement:
Transcribed source code for Luminary 69 (Apollo 10 LM) is now available, as well as syntax-highlighted, colorized HTML.
  • Due to the fact that some comment-text errors discovered in proofing Luminary 69 occurred in other AGC transcriptions as well, there are a number of updates to the source code and syntax-highlighted HTML for a number of other AGC versions.


2017-01-26
  • Have largely rewritten the "hoax" section of the FAQ.  Apparently, when I first wrote it, I had resorted to a lot of sarcasm that seems very harsh now, though sadly no-less correct.  There's also new material in it, so the section is substantially larger than before.
  • Also added tindallgrams.net to the list of recommended external sites.
2017-01-25
All sponsorship opportunities for the Don Eyles's scannable materials offered so far — there are other, smaller docs remaining, but they aren't cataloged yet — are now taken.  So if you were keen to help with that ... too bad!  I like to think there will be more opportunities in the future.  And it's great news.

I've accordingly removed the giant Volunteering Opportunity note that had been stuck at the top of the home page, though you can still read all about it if you like.
2017-01-24
  • Several early GSOPs (Guidance System Operations Plans), or sections thereof, have been added to the document library and Colossus pages: 3 different revisions of the complete AS-202 ("Apollo 3") GSOP, volume II (though still no volume I) of the Apollo 1/2 GSOP, and volume II (we already had volume 1) of the Apollo 4 GSOP.  There is also an updated rev (11→14) of the "Digital Autopilots" section of the Apollo 15-17 GSOP.  Incidentally, it may be worth noting that many documents from the now-apparently-defunct NASA NTRS technical-documents server are showing up at archive.org (no, you don't have us to thank for that).  It's a bit tricky finding anything in that collection, perhaps more so than even the NTRS server was, so if you find any Apollo or Gemini related software or software-related docs there that aren't already in our document library, do let us know.
  • Probably more importantly, the transcription of the Luminary 69 (Apollo 10, mostly) AGC source code has been completed, put into GitHub, and assembles properly.  Comment-text proofing still remains, so I guess I'll hold off on making a big deal of it until that has been completed as well.


2017-01-20
As you may have seen in the notes made here over the last few months, I have been in the process of proofing and correcting the comment text in the various source-code transcriptions we have made of the AGC program listings available to us.  Hitherto, we had no efficient way to do this, but had developed a tool for doing so that worked quite well on most of the of program listings, with newer scans tending to work much better than older ones ... hence in doing this proofing, I found myself working backward in time, progressing from the latest AGC scans to the earliest, finally reaching the original scans with which the Virtual AGC project started, namely Colossus 249 (Apollo 9 CM) and Luminary 131 (Apollo 13 LM), as well as the somewhat-later Artemis 72.  The scans (or the associated printouts from which the scans were made, or the destructive OCR processing done on them) for Colossus 249 and Luminary 131 are so bad that the "efficient" proofing tool cannot be applied at all, while Artemis 72 is highly questionable.  Thus, a different and more time-consuming proofing process was required.

I have just completed proofing Colossus 249, and the results are available in GitHub now.  What has been done with it is to note that Colossus 237 (which preceded it chronologically by a short time), and Comanche 55 (which followed it chronologically) had already been proofed using the "efficient tool".  A 3-way side-by-side "diff" between the transcribed source code from these three AGC program versions was done.  This highlighted places where errors (many, many errors) might exist.  An extremely-large number of errors was corrected in Colossus 249 in this way, along with a (much smaller) number of errors that lingered in the already-proofed  Colossus 237 and Comanche 55.

This proofing process also benefited from the availability of an alternate scan of Colossus 249, not available originally, but available nowadays from the collection of AGC developer Fred Martin.  Thus, many parts of the original scan that were garbled to the point of illegibility, could now be filled in with absolute certainty.

More than you wanted to know, probably, but having just finished it, I'm still excited about it!  :-)  

A similar 3-way proofing of Luminary 131's comment text awaits availability of comment-proofed source-code Luminary 116 and Zerlina (derived from Luminary 145), neither of which is available now, but both of which are expected to be available within a few months.  Unfortunately, for Artemis 72, the last Colossus version, there is no prospect of a 3-way diff with predecessor and successor versions, but merely a 2-way diff against a predecessor version that may not be a closely-related as we would hope, so it will probably come last of all.  But we'll see what we'll see.
2017-01-11
I've added a few "new" names to the list of AGC developers, relayed to me by developer Henry Noble, who also wasn't yet on the list.  This reminds me that the original list I made only took into account the names I found within Luminary 131 and Colossus 249 ... whereas we actually have lots and lots more AGC listings now, so I should go through all of them and pull out more names!  And, I ought to add their affiliations, when they're known; thus Henry worked at Raytheon.  But I haven't yet done those latter things.

The web-pages themselves have been internally cleaned-up in terms of their HTML coding.  Hopefully, this has been done in a way that is 100% transparent to anybody viewing them, but it's always possible that problems might have been introduced in the process.  Obviously, let me know if you see anything funkier than you expect!

The licensing on all of the pages has also changed, from what (in the U.S.) would have been an implicit copyright by me (Ron Burkey), with all rights reserved, to a Creative Commons No Rights Reserved license.  This is equivalent to being in the Public Domain in the U.S., and is the closest equivalent to that in parts of the world where the concept of the public domain is not recognized.  I learned this from something Nina Paley wrote in connection to her marvelous animated film, Sita Sings the Blues ... which, if you've not seen it, you should!  She had originally released it for free under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License, which already was unbelievably brave, but still had the effect of reserving some legal rights for herself.  But she later concluded that since she knew she wasn't going to sue anybody for breaching the license anyway, what was the point of reserving any rights?  So she simply changed the licensing in the same manner I am doing now.  (Of course, I don't claim to have to have the guts she does, since I derived no financial benefit from this website anyway, so the licensing is irrelevant to my checkbook.)

Comparably gutsy to Nina's film is Kimiko Ishizaka's release of her piano renditions of Bach's Goldberg Variations under this same CC0 license.  Highly recommended.  I'm not sure of the licensing used for her later recordings of Book I the Well-Tempered Clavier or the Art of Fugue, though Wikipedia claims that the Well-Tempered Clavier has indeed been released to the public domain as well.  Kimiko is a German-Japanese, former Olympic bronze medalist in powerlifting, and concert pianist, which is pretty interesting in itself.
2017-01-06
  • The original Colossus  249 and Luminary 131 scanned material which we started with, way back in 2003, as well as the improved replacement Colossus 249 scan we made of Fred Martin's program listing, has been completely restructured so that it conforms to the same pattern as all of the other scanned AGC program listings: i.e., it now consists entirely of PNG files, one per each page numbered by the original assembler, and no PDF files at all.  A side benefit is that while the original print/scan quality has naturally not improved, the quality of the images we're providing has nevertheless improved anyway, whilst decreasing the actual file sizes.  At the same time, page-number references in the Colossus 249 and Luminary 131 transcribed source-code files, which previously corresponded to the PDF page-numbers in the gigantic now-irrelevant all-in-one PDF files downloaded from the now-defunct History of Recent Technology website, have been changed so that (like all other AGC source-code listings) they correspond to the page markings on the original printed pages of the program listings.  My motivation for all of these changes is that I intend to begin proofing the comment text in the Colossus 249 and Luminary 131 source-code files by cross-comparing them with similar AGC versions like Colossus 237, Comanche 55, and Luminary 99; that kind of cross-checkout would have been greatly hampered without the changes.  Moreover, if we manage to get Don Eyle's Luminary 131 listing (which we don't yet have a sponsor for, by the way), the checking that that scan would enable would also have been hampered.  However, even without such motivations, the overall effect of the changes is still to make the Colossus 249 and Luminary 131 material better and more accessible.
  • I guess I've forgotten to mention any of the newspaper, magazine, or online articles in 2016 in which our Virtual AGC project played an important role.  Of course, I don't necessarily know about all of them, since I don't spend a lot of time scouring the web for news about the project or about myself.  The best-known is probably the article titled "BURN, BABY! BURN! The code that took America to the moon was just published to GitHub, and it’s like a 1960s time capsule" at Quartz.  That one was fun for me, because various people stopped me or telephoned me to say "hey, is that you?"  But for my taste, the article which has just appeared in the current issue of the U.K.'s Delayed Gratification magazine, called "Houston, we have a program", is a lot more fun, for a number of reasons.  Not least is that the article is really about our Virtual AGC project, rather than being primarily about Apollo 11 or the AGC software for Apollo 11.  But also, I think the article is extremely well-structured and entertaining, much more so than the endless, detailed blathering I output by the ton here at our website, so it's a fun read.  I congratulate the writer, Chris Bourn, for the care he took, and the results he achieved.  You may notice I've provided no link to the article, though.  That's because Delayed Gratification is a print-only magazine, supported by subscribers rather than ads.  They only put a handful of sample articles online; perhaps ours will some day be one of those (I hope!), but perhaps not.  The magazine itself has a very intriguing concept: it is a proponent of something called "slow journalism", which is basically a throwback to the old days when journalists were supposed to do thorough fact checking, editors were supposed to edit, and so on, as opposed to today's situation, in which articles are thrown together as quickly as possible (probably by cutting-and-pasting unsubstantiated material), in order to maximize online ad revenue.  In contrast, Delayed Gratification boasts that it is the last to break a story, rather than the first to do so. There's also an interesting TED talk about the concept of slow journalism:


2017-01-02
Colossus 237's source-code's comment text has now been completely proofed, and its proofing data published online, should you choose to do a proofing pass on it yourself.

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