With the Apollo moon missions on many minds, after the death this weekend of the first moonwalker, Neil Armstrong, Google has an interesting post out about how a single search uses as much computing power as consumed by the entire Apollo program.
Much as been written about how little power the Apollo flight computers had, such as the guidance computer having less than half the power of an old IBM PC XT or that our cellphones have more processing power than the on-board systems.
Google’s post on Apollo’s computer power took a much broader view. It looked at all the computers used in the Apollo program, from those in the spacecraft to mainframes used by mission control on the ground. Adding all this power up, across 11 years and 17 missions, the company concluded that a single Google search consumes more power:
It takes about the same amount of computing to answer one Google Search query as all the computing done — in flight and on the ground — for the entire Apollo program!
That’s right. According to Google, the huge computer effort involved to make all of Apollo possible these days is expended in each search for things like “Lego Alien Conquest” or “Rebecca Black” or “Adele,” all “hot” searches last year on Google.
To put it another way, each month, Google searches consume the computing power of 100 billion Apollo missions, as the company handles 100 billion searches per month. But rather than this being somehow wasteful, it’s more an expression of how much computer power has become plentiful over the years. As the company wrote:
That’s how much computing has advanced. It is easy to take this for granted, but this computing power helps make the world a better place and opens the door for amazing things to come.
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