Computers Take Flight

Much has been written and re-enacted of the trials NASA experienced putting people in space–but the focus is usually on the astronauts, the faces we put on space travel. Some attention has been paid to the propulsion pioneers and the rocket engineers that made it possible, but rarely do you hear about the software jocks that wrote the code to run the rockets.

I had searched for a while for a text that gave the software perspective on the space missions and had given up. Today I came across just such a text almost by accident: Computers Take Flight: A History of NASA’s Pioneering Digital Fly-By-Wire Project. I haven’t read it all yet but after reading chapter 3, “The Reliability Challenge and Software Development,” I’m hooked:

Software quickly became the main driver of cost and schedule. The techniques of making reliable hardware were know to engineers before the program began. However, ensuring software reliability was still an immature process.

Not much has changed in 40+ years.

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