[ih] ARPANET and Apollo 11

Larry Sheldon larrysheldon at cox.net
Thu Mar 12 11:26:29 PDT 2015

On 3/12/2015 10:19, Guy Almes wrote:
> Noel,
>     The coincidence of 1969 as Apollo 11 and the ARPAnet is indeed
> interesting.
>     Your question could be taken (at least) two different ways.
>     First, which was the greater human/cultural accomplishment/achievement?
>     Second, which had the greater historical impact/consequences?
>     The second seems easier to me: the ARPAnet/Internet has had huge
> (mostly positive) impact on so many aspects of modern life -- economy,
> culture, technology.  No need to elaborate in this circle.
>     The first is tougher.
>     Just yesterday, in conversation with a friend, we noted that
> President Kennedy had, in his 1961 speech at Rice University, challenged
> the country to put a man on the moon (and safely return them) by the end
> of the decade.  Eight and a fraction years later it was done, and in
> spectacular fashion.  If our national leaders were to challenge us to
> attempt to repeat this today, could we do it?  This mixes so many
> notions of national solidarity/will and the cohesiveness of our (US)
> society with the normal technical/economic issues, but it would be quite
> a challenge.
>     My hunch is that future folks will consider the ARPAnet and say
> "cool" and "big impact", and they'll look back on Apollo and say "very
> cool".
> 	-- Guy

I think there is an impossible-to-quantify aspect of this importance 
comparison thing.  I don't know how to add to the quandary except by 
reporting on a conversation that took place sometime during that era.

I was sitting in a dentist's chair, among other things listening to the 
dentist drone on about the enormous waste that was the space program, 
when there so many worth recipients pan-handling around the train station.

I finally stopped him (the enormity of an argument with a dentist did 
not occur to me at the time) and asked him why he was using the small 
hand-piece in his hand instead of the belt-driven monster hanging idly 

He went on about how the modern hand-piece drove the tool faster that 
allowed him to work quicker (and there-by reduce pain, he said, and 
there-by run more patients through hour, I thought).

I asked him if he knew how the modern hand-piece had been developed.  It 
was apparent to me that he did not.

I said that I was pretty sure that the bearings that allowed the little 
turbine in the hand-piece to spin so fast had been developed for the 
inertial guidance platform gyroscopes.

> On 3/12/15 9:35 AM, Noel Chiappa wrote:
>> So I was sitting here, not really up to working, and idly watching The History
>> Channel, and there was a documentary about Apollo 11 on. They had a number of
>> people (including Walter Cronkite) talking about what they thought it meant,
>> retrospectively.
>> Several said something about how it was the greatest accomplishment of the
>> century, etc (it certainly was an amazing accomplishment - looking back on it,
>> it's completely amazing that they managed to do it with 1960s technology -
>> although winning WWII was an even greater effort, I'm quite sure), and one
>> said that when people look back at the 20th Century, centuries from now,
>> that's the thing they are likely to think was the most significant event of
>> the century.
>> It suddenly struck me that something else happened in 1969 - that was the year
>> the ARPANET was turned on. Given that the ARPANET gave birth to the Internet,
>> and the impact the computer networking has had on the world (admittedly, in
>> tandem with the development of the personal computer), I wonder if in the long
>> run, landing on the Moon will really be seen as more significant than that?
>> Odd how two such major things, long-term-historically speaking, happened in
>> the same year!
>>       Noel

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The fact that they are infallible; and,

The fact that they learn from their mistakes.

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