Saturday, July 20, 2013

44 Years Ago

Neal Armstrong working on the LEM, Tranquility Base, July 20, 1969. 

While we lived in North Miami, 250 miles or so south of the KSC, we were in New York City visiting relatives that whole week.  I was a teenager.  It would be the last time I would see some of them, and 12 years until I'd see others again.  Somewhere around here I have small prints of 35mm film pictures I took of the crew of Apollo 11, at an anniversary celebration for KSC Employees and families, when Mrs. Graybeard was working on the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters avionics.  Ought to scan those in before they fade away. 

I was as sure as can be we'd have visited Mars by now. 


  1. The vision has sure changed...sometimes I think we are going blind.

  2. Back in the day when we really DID have the best and brightest...

  3. SiG, thanks for this post. Very poignant in lots of ways and a
    great reminder of the technology that we (the U.S.) used to be known as a powerhouse for.

    I have to agree with Indyjonesoutthere that the vision has sure changed and that our sight is fading.

    This month marks my 20th year as an ASIC engineer and the vision for semiconductor innovation, at least in the commercial sense, is pretty well dead. 20 years ago we innovated out-of-the-box like hell. Management actually encouraged this and our only leash was a market window/trade show and, occasionally a budget. Today, pretty much all the commercial space does is bolt together previously designed and verified IP. very little, if any, innovation at all. The cookie-cutter approach is cheaper and faster but it sure is dull. And that dullness echoes throughout the product ecosystem.

    Thanks again for the great blog and this great post. Get those 35mm prints scanned. Those are treasures.

    -Jeff in Washington

    1. Jeff - thanks for the compliment and visiting.

      I think you're in a field that's caught in a continual cost pinch - more so than most electronics. At Major Avionics Company, we don't do ASICs because they cost (last time I was around one) hundreds of times what an FPGA costs - so we rely on FPGAs. On that program, prototype quantities of really high end FPGAs were $10,000 each, but making an ASIC was a quarter million dollars, plus a bunch for the first pieces - and you'd better get it right or it was another quarter million.

      My bike's cyclocomputer, for instance, has an ASIC in it; an aviation radar is infinitely more complex, but relies on FPGAs. Kinda crazy, isn't it? But for readers who aren't in this business, the ASIC that makes the bike speedometer cheap is economically the only way to go when you're making millions. We'll never make as many of any of our products as one type of bike computer or a hundred other consumer products.

  4. Yep, an outpost on Mars, and a CITY on the Moon.....

  5. I grew up in Titusville, across the Indian River from KSC, from 1966 through 1974. My father worked in Quality Control for IBM on the Saturn V Instrument Unit, the guidance system that occupied the ring between the payload bay and the third stage of the rocket. I watched ever Saturn V launch either from my front yard, or a bit closer from the shore of the Indian River.

    July 20, 1969 I KNEW that by now we'd have a commercial space station in orbit and colonies (plural) on the moon.

    When the last Saturn V put a damaged Skylab in orbit, and there were no heavy-lift vehicles in the planning stages, I was beginning to doubt. When Skylab re-entered Earth's atmosphere in 1979 I was convinced that we'd be lucky to return to the moon in my lifetime.

    Yup. Ten years completely changed my vision.

    1. Remember the big wheel space station everyone used to think we were going to have? The Pan Am space station from "2001 A Space Odyssey"? Yeah, I expected those. And the complete cities on the moon, as Dr.Jim says.

      Back when I worked on Space Station, it was called Freedom (not the "International" SS). We used to joke they cut the budget and downsized it to the point it needed to be called Fred. But the cuts continued and they needed to call it "Fr".