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I saw an article some time ago that compared smartphones to the computers that had put mankind on the moon. I can't remember the exact comparison and I can't find an accurate comparison online, as they vary from site to site and essentially just confirm that "yes, smartphones are significantly faster than the Apollo mission computers."

According to Moore's Law: It's been 45 years since Man on the Moon. 12*45=540 months. 540/18=30. So in theory, processing speed has doubled 30 times since the 1969 moon landing?

I was just wondering if someone could be more precise. Like, is my iPhone faster than all of the computers used in the Apollo missions (combined)? Or maybe 100 times or 1000 times faster? I would like to directly compare the two if possible.

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closed as off-topic by Keltari, Heptite, DragonLord, Tog, Mokubai Apr 29 at 11:48

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question is not about computer hardware or software, within the scope defined in the help center." – Keltari, Heptite, DragonLord, Tog, Mokubai
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You should make a distinction between the Apollo Guidance Computer and the computers used on the ground (presumably excluding any used for design or manufacture and perhaps also any used for training simulation), which could also be considered part of the mission. Also Moore's Law concerned transistors per chip not performance. –  Paul A. Clayton Apr 28 at 18:31
Technically, Moore's Law states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. It says nothing about speed. –  David Apr 28 at 21:15
Dock your iPhone and head for the moon! Now that would be something... –  sammyg Apr 29 at 21:33

2 Answers 2

The problem with this question is that it a variable point in time comparison. Although the speed of the Apollo computers is fixed, smartphones change constantly.

Here is an excerpt from a good article about the Apollo computer speed:

The IBM PC XT also ran at a dizzying clock speed of 4.077MHz. That's 0.004077 GHz. The Apollo's Guidance Computer was a snail-like 1.024 MHz in comparison, and it's external signaling was half that -- actually measured in Hz (1/1000th of 1 MHz, much as 1 MHz is 1/1000 of 1 GHz).

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You should probably include a [sic] in the quote after "in Hz" since clearly "in kHz" was meant, perhaps with a parenthetical note to clarify. –  Paul A. Clayton Apr 28 at 18:40

Comparing the speed of computers directly is difficult, but for fun I decided to to compare a roughly standard mobile device to the Apollo Guidance Computer.

AGC vs. An average new smartphone:
RAM size: 4KB vs ~4GB = 1,000,000x Larger
RAM speed: 8MB/s (??) vs. 6400 MB/s ~= 800x faster
Weight: 70 pounds vs. ~100g ~= 3000x lighter
Cost: $150,000 vs. $500 ~= 300x cheaper
Power Reqs: 70W vs 1.3W/core(?) ~= 50x more energy efficient

I'm not sure I got the RAM size and speed right, as I had to convert them from archaic units of measurement. In addition the other numbers are all very approximate, as they are not fully able to represent the changes in architecture, Instruction set, and general knowledge since the 1960's. I hope this gives you a rough idea of how far we have come.

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