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Salt and the Saturn V Computer

When I first moved here back in 1990, I was told that there are more rocket scientists per square foot in Huntsville, Alabama, than anywhere else on the planet. I can believe it.

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My chum, Matt Pulzer, who bills himself as “Lord High Executioner, Witchfinder General, and Editor in Chief,” at the UK’s premier electronics and computing maker magazine, Practical Electronics, just sent me a jolly interesting email. The missive in question contained a link to this video, in which the host of the Smarter Every Day YouTube channel starts by showing a shoebox-size memory module from the computer on the Saturn V rocket that took us to the moon in 1969.  
Every second of this video is worth watching, including the discussions about how a lot of the Saturn V rocket was built in Huntsville Alabama, which is where I currently hang my hat. The video shows the host and his friend driving past the Saturn V at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center — I do the same thing every day (see also The Ultimate Saturn V Launch). As an aside, when I first moved here back in 1990, I was told that there are more rocket scientists per square foot in Huntsville than anywhere else on the planet. I can believe it. You practically have to fight the little rapscallions off with a stick. The video contains a really nice high-level introduction to magnetic core store — enough to educate non-technical viewers without scaring them off. One of the prize sequences, which starts around the 6:30 mark, is when Luke Talley — who was a senior associate engineer at IBM in Huntsville back in 1969 — describes how they used to analyze the data following a launch. Priceless! I absolutely recommend watching this video in its entirety, even though it’s 14:20 long. Actually, the part about the Saturn V ends around the 11:45 mark, at which point the host launches into an advert for his sponsor, Audible.com The advert in question is for a ~14-hour audible version of the book Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. To be honest, I love listening to audible offerings while I’m on a road trip, but I don’t have any such trips planned, so instead I bounced over to peruse the paperback version on Amazon. This little scamp has 4.5 stars with 744 ratings, which is rather good. The Amazon description sounds right up my street, especially the part that says, “… filled with an unending series of fascinating details…” Even the reviewer comments are worth perusing, like the one titled, “Salt is Peppered with Tantalizing Insights” (I wish I’d said that). I just placed an order for Salt, and I will of course be reviewing it as soon as I’ve read it. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing what you think about the aforementioned video.

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Aubrey Kagan

“Salt” is pretty good book. Like SImon WInchester, Murk Kurlansky investigates a topic and then can produce 2 books. The matching pair is a book called “Cod”. One of Kurlansky’s quirks is to add food recipes in the text.

Because of my background (my father owned a paper converting business) I especially enjoyed his book “Paper”.

In checking around I see he also has written far more books than I thought. Time to start catching up!

Rick Curl

@Aubrey: “One of Kurlansky’s quirks is to add food recipes in the text.”

I’ve got a book at home called “Beebop to the Boolean Boogie” whose author did this too. In the midst of all the explanation about electrons and numbering systems you’ll find a recipe for seafood gumbo.

…….now what was that author’s name? Seems vaguely familiar somehow……


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