As the old saying goes, engineers just want to have fun. Or something like that.
And that’s certainly the case with this neat release of the reams of coding that went into the Apollo 11 spacecraft computers in the 1960s. As picked up by Quartz, the source code is now available on GitHub for you to peruse – and there are some interesting humorous comments left in the historic code.
For example, the “MASTER_IGNITION_ROUTINE” file is named “BURN_BABY_BURN”, apparently a reference to DJ Magnificent Montague and the Los Angeles riots in 1965.
And there's also a suggestion to an astronaut to "crank the silly thing around", before declaring it's time to go "off to see the wizard".
Some eagle-eyed Redditors on /r/ProgrammerHumor picked up some other tidbits. One is a line from Shakespeare, incorrectly attributed to Henry 6, Act 2, Scene 4, but actually from Henry 6, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 7, as user twodollaz points out. You can see it below.
And some have even started editing the code, poking fun at the Apollo 13 mishap in April 1970. The spacecraft was almost left stranded when one of its oxygen tanks exploded, and commenters have been pointing out some of the issues before it was “fixed in Apollo 14”.
This source code for the whole Apollo Guidance Computer, developed by a team led by Margaret Hamilton, was released last week by former NASA intern Chris Garry. It had actually been available online since 2003 thanks to the work of a tech researcher called Ron Burkey, said Quartz, but now that it’s on popular website GitHub it seems to have gathered a bit more attention.
In the words of one programmer writing in the Apollo 11 source code: “GOODBYE. COME AGAIN SOON.”