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Happenings: Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129617D
Original Publication Date: 1989-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 4 page(s) / 20K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Joyce Peterson: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Smithsonian Institution Office of Public Affairs Washington, D. C. USA

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1989 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Happenings: Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age

Joyce Peterson

Smithsonian Institution Office of Public Affairs Washington, D. C. USA

A major new gallery, "Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age," opened 12 May 1989 at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, exploring the "computer revolution" in aerospace.

The new gallery is organized in seven exhibit areas to illustrate the primary applications of the computer in aerospace: design, aerodynamics, computer-aided manufacture, flight testing, air operations, flight simulation, and space operations.

Each exhibit in "Beyond the Limits" includes "handson" interactive computer terminals so that visitors can see for themselves the kinds of tasks that computers perform. A "Space Station Theater" features films on flight simulation and the X-29 research aircraft; in addition, a short science-fiction film about a group of young space travelers explains the role of computer software.

  (Image Omitted: "Beyond the Limits" traces the development of the computer from the years after World War II, when electronic computers were first adapted by aircraft manufacturers to solve stress equations. The fragile glass vacuum tubes of these computers were replaced in the 1960s by more reliable and efficient transistors. At the gallery entrance is a plexiglass case containing 1 million transistors, along with their 1989 equivalent: a single microchip, smaller than a dime.)

A GRAY-I, one of the first production-model supercomputers of the 1970s, is displayed in the Design section -- the only place in the world, outside a research laboratory, where such a computer can be seen. Machines like the CRAY-1 can generate graphics that can model aerodynamic forces as accurately as the most sophisticated wind tunnels.

The "Beyond the Limits" gallery's section on flight testing includes this picture of the Boeing 707 Dash80 (taken in the mid- 1950s). Testing this prototype of America's first commercial transport required miles of paper tape to record data. At Cray's Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin plant, workers hand-solder the thousands of wires that make up each computer.

One product of supercomputer design methods, the radical X-29 aircraft with its forward- sweeping wings, is literally too unstable to fly without on-board computers. A full-scale model of the X-29 is in the Air Operations exhibit. The unit on Aerodynamics features another research aircraft, the HiMAT (Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology). This pilotless craft is flown by computer-assisted remote control.

The Mariner 10 spacecraft, the first man-made object to fly past more than one planet, was equipped with onboard computers that allowed it to be directed through space by earth-based controllers. A flight backup of the Mariner 10 is on display in...