in reply to Re^2: The most important near-term goal of a space program:
in thread The most important near-term goal of a space program:

For some reason, the acronym EINIAC comes to mind every time someone attributes the invention of the computer to the space program.
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Re^4: The most important near-term goal of a space program:
by jcoxen (Deacon) on May 10, 2007 at 17:31 UTC
    On the face of it you have a point. ENIAC does predate the space program. But ENIAC was based on vacuum tube technology and cost huge amounts of money and filled rooms. The space program gets it's computer kudos because it brought about the use of solid state circuitry in computers which eventually resulted in mass production, lower prices, smaller size, etc. All of which is why today you can buy a computer at WalMart that makes ENIAC look like an abacus and is small enough to fit into a students backpack. So, if you own a computer...


      Solid state electronics also predate the space program. The transistor was invented in 1947, specifically to replace the vacuum tube. With or without NASA, the logical progression of the application of solid state technology *had to* result in VLSI. The evolution from my Hallicrafters Super SkyRider to your cell phone did not require that some guy go whack a golf ball on the moon. Humans are going to invent and refine technology because it's what we humans do and have been doing for longer than we've been able to leave written records about it.

      I probably shouldn't be blaspheming the gods of NASA here... eh, what the heck. Click!

        The use of vacuum tubes for computational purposes was driven by the need to crack the Enigma code in WWII.

        Velcro, and a number of other 'space aged' materials were driven by manned space-flight.

        The question really comes down to - which is a more noble challenge to overcome? Overcoming a hostile environment or figuring out ways to kill each other.

        Either is a goal that requires constant innovation.

        No one who favors a space program of any kind doesn't want to solve social problems. But it's imperative that we do both at the same time. One well placed rock can change the biosphere enough that we all check out. Sadly it seems like it takes a threat that large to get everyone to pull together. Unfortunately, contrary to films like Deep Impact, etc. we would be lucky to have more than 3 days notice of one on the way.

        Further, all the countries out there that have no space program aren't necessarily doing better on social issues than the ones that have them. There's no direct correlation that shows that the resources 'wasted' on space wouldn't have found another way to be wasted. Indeed, space-based industry requires education & employment. They're hardly mutually exclusive.

        Wait! This isn't a Parachute, this is a Backpack!