SIE 6: Making Core Memory
Making Core Memory
The computers for the Apollo moon missions stored information in core memory ropes—threaded wires passed through or around magnetized metal rings. NASA engineers nicknamed this hardware “LOL memory” for the “little old ladies” who carefully wove the wires around the ferrite cores by hand. The proposed session uses this moment of engineering history to examine the embodied, gendered forms of knowledge that contribute to information technology innovation. We do this in an interventionist project of collaborative inquiry that materializes the work of core memory weaving. Participants receive a “patch kit” that contains a simple chipboard matrix, beads and yarn (in place of cores and wires). The completed patches are attached to a quilt that then shares historical audio about the core rope created for Apollo Guidance Computer. Core rope memory transformed software into hardware. When digital information is made material, it helps us to see the hands that bring technology into being.