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I think Apollo was a product, not a cause. After Sputnik there was a massive push towards science and engineering in the US, and Apollo fell out of that. So did most of the computer industry.

There's very little evidence to suggest that Apollo contributed directly to electronic design. The first patent for single-chip microcircuitry was granted in 1958. Computers with modular logic were built around the same time. Putting the two together was an next obvious step, and would have happened anyway.

Apollo was mostly a PR exercise for US science and engineering. There may have been some spin-offs in materials science and - obviously - rocket science. But Apollo hasn't left much of a trace in computer science history.

In fact it's rarely mentioned at all. Projects like SAGE, which was the first generation US air defence network, were much more important. NASA did buy a big IBM System/360 for Apollo, but System/360 was already around, and IBM were more interested in selling it as a tool for airline bookings than managing a space program with it.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 at 08:35:45 AM EST
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One bit of hearsay lore that I picked up somewhere (probably on TV) is that the physical space constraints inherent in spacecraft design prompted Apollo scientists and related engineers in various indsutries to work on making things like transistors work in a practical setting, as the existing vacuum-tube technologies were simply too big.
by Zwackus on Tue Feb 26th, 2008 at 12:51:39 AM EST
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I don't think it's about volume, weight is more likely, and I think it was mainly the Minuteman program that really required them. But I would suggest this was only a slight influence. People tried to build integrated circuits all through the 50s,and the first succesful ones  were somewhere around 1960. So there might have been a few years  when rocket programs were the main users,  between their development and first commercial use in the mid-60s.

Keep in mind that the big advantage of ICs, even those years, was the possibility to get prices down through mass production. Not really something the space program, or even Minuteman was very concerned about.

by GreatZamfir on Tue Feb 26th, 2008 at 03:57:56 AM EST
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