NASA Sent Humans To The Moon With Only 4KB RAM, But Is 4GB Not Enough To Play Modern Video Games Now?


RAM is a random access storage device that allows to read or write data in almost the same amount of time, regardless of their location in memory. RAM is used to store machine code and operational data.

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The photo below shows the computer which contributed to the landing of a man on the moon.

Apollo Guidance Computer
Apollo Guidance Computer

And this is how, for example, a computer looks to run some graphic games.

Amd Radeon graphic card
Amd Radeon graphic card

To understand the question posed, we first need to find out what the Apollo 11 navigation computer was, containing only 4 kilobytes of built-in RAM.

Let us not to forget that this was the time of the 1960-70s, and one should not have expected at least a megabyte of RAM. At that time, computers were not a consumer product available to everyone.

The main task of the Apollo 11 navigation computer was to provide control of the spacecraft for smooth-controlled launch and landing.

This computer did not need to handle super-detailed graphics. It also did not have to perform multiple calculations so that the crew could control the ship.

Flying in an Apollo 11 rocket required a limited set of instructions to keep the ship unchanged for several hours. The computer monitored the trajectory, speed, and a number of other parameters that did not have to be changed many times.

The computer had a small number of control sensors that signaled changes. In addition, complex mathematics was laid, but nothing that 4 KB of RAM could not handle. Mathematics did not have to be recounted several times.

All the parameters were entered once and changed only from time to time. The computer program prioritized more meaningful tasks. There was a very small and uninformative display for computer messages.

Modern computers, such as the one shown in the photo above, need gigabytes of RAM because games are much more demanding than the process of landing a space rocket.

In a game, the input signals are constantly changing. Moving the mouse, pressing the keys, the state changes all the time. Even if you do nothing, the state still changes. The virtual world has moving parts such as leaves, water, shadows, and more.

Apollo Guidance Computer
Apollo Guidance Computer

All this needs constant processing. The computer is forced to recount over and over again to display multiple details on the screen.

Even if in those days people had access to megabytes or maybe gigabytes of RAM, they simply would not be needed.

Going beyond 4KB of RAM would provide greater performance, but we should remember that the Apollo 11 navigation computer’s RAM was completely handmade.

This amount of RAM was enough for landing on the moon. Expanding to 4.5 kilobytes would be very expensive and time-consuming, besides redundant. Modern games are not about rocket control, they are about displaying something on the screen.

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