Can you mine Bitcoin on the computer that first took men to the moon?


A man who once mined Bitcoin on a punch card IBM mainframe, had some interesting results when he tried to mine Bitcoin on the computer that took man to the moon.

Fifty years ago, man first set foot on the moon in an incredible triumph of ingenuity against the odds.

It’s a difficult enough feat today, considering we haven’t been back since the early 1970s when computing power was less advanced than the innards of a smart toaster (ironically, one of the dumbest devices ever invented).

Bitcoin to the moon

Reverse engineering specialist Ken Shirriff has detailed on his blog how he worked out a code that enabled him to mine Bitcoin on the world’s only remaining Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).

Invented at a time when most computers took up most of a room, the 15 bit AGC was surprisingly small and light and had performance similar to an Apple II.

Still, that’s not saying much. It can perform about 40,000 additions per second and has a woefully small amount of memory.

The Apollo Guidance Computer (Ken Shirriff)

Memory was literally woven into the computer

Equivalent to 72kb today, every single 1 and 0 in the memory was literally woven by hand – sewn into the computer by women from a textile factory over the course of eight weeks.

Shirriff wrote software on his laptop and loaded it into the AGC using a test connector originally used by the monitor.

He discovered that it’s certainly possible to mine Bitcoin on the AGC, but it takes a while. The computer takes 10.3 seconds per hash.

Handwoven rope memory from the AGC (Wikiwand)

AGC actually faster than some other methods

That’s faster than some other ‘absurd’ Bitcoin mining experiments Shirriff has conducted.

It’s faster than mining by hand with pencil and paper which resulted in a hash rate of 0.67 hashes per day.

It’s also better than an IBM mainframe that used punch cards from the early 1960s that had a hash rate of 80 seconds per day.

But it’s not quite as good as the 1973 Xerox Alto (which inspired the Macintosh) which managed 1.5 hashes per second.

Other ‘absurd’ Bitcoin mining experiments (Ken Shirriff)

So could NASA have paid for moon mission with BTC if it had been around?

Shirriff points out that if NASA had devoted its energies to mining Bitcoin, it could have paid for the $150 billion cost of sending a man to the moon, given a BTC market cap over $200 billion.

There’s just one slight hitch.

“Unfortunately, the computer is so slow that it would take about a million times the age of the universe to successfully mine a Bitcoin block.”

WATCH: Apollo Guidance Computer mining Bitcoin

Andrew Fenton

Contact: Andrew Fenton is an Australian freelance journalist and editor. He’s been a national entertainment writer for News Corp, film journalist for The Advertiser and a staff writer on SA Weekend and The Melbourne Weekly. Andrew's work has appeared pretty much everywhere including CNN International,, Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph & Courier Mail, Triple J, 3AW, Rendezview, and Intrepid's The Journal. DISCLOSURE: Andrew's cryptocurrency holdings include BTC, VET, ETH, SNX TRAC, ZEN, XRP, WTC, and TRX.

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