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Own Half a Kilobyte of Space and Computing History With Gemini 3 RAM Chip

by Devin Coldewey /
Heritage Auctions

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Computing and space history buffs alike will appreciate this RAM chip from 1965, part of the first computer that ever flew on a manned space mission (Gemini 3) and is now up for auction. It's 4,096 bits, or half a kilobyte — so it isn't exactly state of the art. But at the time it was an indispensable part of the control system, and now it's a beautiful artifact of the earliest days of computing.

Related: Vintage Apple Computer Could Fetch $800,000 at Auction

Gemini 3 was the ninth manned American spaceflight, crewed by Virgil "Gus" Grissom and John Young. It was a test of numerous technologies in development at NASA, from the onboard systems to the two-man capsule itself. There was also an early experiment onboard to examine the effects of microgravity on sea urchin eggs, which unfortunately failed. The flight lasted about 5 hours from launch to splashdown, and the computer was used for launch backup, orbital maneuvers and re-entry control.

Related: Forty-Five Years Ago, Apollo 11's Crew First Felt the Moon's Tug

The computer was "no bigger than a hatbox," according to IBM archives quoted in the auction description. It weighed 59 pounds, and performed 7,000 calculations per second. More specifics that will be of interest to tech and space fans will be found in the chip's technical manual, which was reprinted to accompany the chip.

Bidding ends on Nov. 6, and it's already up to $1,300 at Heritage Auctions.

Hat tip: Engadget

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