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3D-Printed Apollo Guidance Computer Display

Nearly 50 years ago, Apollo 11 carried the first earthlings to the moon, using a guidance computer that ran at .043MHz — less than 1/300th of the ATmega328P chip that powers the Arduino Uno and Nano. Considering what had to be accomplished with this limited hardware, it makes the feat all the more impressive. This does mean, however, that replicating the computer display module is achievable today without the backing of a large nation, as ST-Geotronics shows in this write-up.

This Apollo Guidance Computer Display/Keyboard (AGC DSKY) replica features a 3D-printed exterior, and an Arduino Nano for control. In addition to displaying numbers and receiving input from a physical keypad, the device can play a clip from JFK’s famous 1962 speech where he declares, “We choose to go to the moon!”While the electronics involved would have been inconceivable in the late 60s, one item that is not available today is the distinct EL numbering that was used to display characters on the original DSKY. These were replaced by readily-available 7-segment LEDs, however the +/- displays could not be sourced. Since forgoing these important symbols was not acceptable, they created their own custom 3D-printed units with custom SMT LEDs. The resulting build looks incredible, as shown in the video seen here.

You could, of course, attempt to recreate this device from scratch based on the instructions. However, if you’d rather just order one fully assembled, they’re available for purchase, along with various DIY kits.

Jeremy Cook

Jan 11, 2018

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