Quote of the day—Margaret Hamilton

Due to an error in the checklist manual, the rendezvous radar switch was placed in the wrong position. This caused it to send erroneous signals to the computer. The result was that the computer was being asked to perform all of its normal functions for landing while receiving an extra load of spurious data which used up 15% of its time. The computer (or rather the software in it) was smart enough to recognize that it was being asked to perform more tasks than it should be performing. It then sent out an alarm, which meant to the astronaut, “I’m overloaded with more tasks than I should be doing at this time and I’m going to keep only the more important tasks; i.e., the ones needed for landing.” …Actually, the computer was programmed to do more than recognize error conditions. A complete set of recovery programs was incorporated into the software. The software’s action, in this case, was to eliminate lower priority tasks and re-establish the more important ones…If the computer hadn’t recognized this problem and taken recovery action, I doubt if Apollo 11 would have been the successful moon landing it was.


Margaret Hamilton
December 25, 2014
Margaret Hamilton, the Engineer Who Took the Apollo to the Moon
[H/T to Roberta X.

The quote above is just a small part of a great story about Hamilton. I like software, I like space exploration, I like smart women. I loved the story.

Thanks Roberta.—Joe]


5 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Margaret Hamilton

  1. Yeah, when I was a young man I must have had my rendezvous radar switch in the wrong position too, sending erroneous signals to my guidance system and causing a frequent overload condition. Apparently it happens a lot, given the high divorce rate.

  2. I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!

    Oh, wait… Wrong Margaret Hamilton?

  3. The world has indeed been blessed with two quite remarkable Margaret Hamiltons. I wish I had known about the Apollo-program one when I was younger, I might have taken more programming classes.

    You’re welcome, Joe.

  4. I grew up around NASA. When I was growing up, one of my friends was an absolute genius when it came to math. She went on to write computer software after college (late ’70s). She was the type who was scoring 800 in the math section of the SATs back then — but no college scholarship because she was a girl. (Remember those days?)

    I briefly worked for the man who invented the vacuum fed computer card reader.

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