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Space travel: Not as high tech as you might think

It may be the final frontier, but that doesn’t mean we’re using bleeding edge technology.

[The International Space Station’s] 44 primary computers that do everything from guide the station around Earth at 17,000 mph to monitor for fires are powered by Intel 386 processors, first built in the mid-1980s, with a clock rate of 16 megahertz. To put that in perspective, today’s processors are measured in gigahertz, a speed increase by a factor of 1,000.

Needless to say, the task of maintaining the network of computers on the station humming along is more difficult than, say, putting together a home network.

I suppose it isn’t exactly a trivial matter to do upgrades on it. Funny how this sort of thing was never a problem on Star Trek – “Open a channel, Lt. Uhura.” “I can’t, Captain, their version of Skype is totally incompatible with ours.” Gives me hope that we’ll get this problem licked one of these days.

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  1. Linkmeister says:

    Another problem? Maintenance and upgrades of this nature aren’t sexy or exceptionally PR-friendly. They’re like sewer and sidewalk repair; important but dull.

  2. Marcia Space says:

    Government agencies are notorious for using older technology than private industry.