Journal de bord

Nicolas C. Solerieu, Designer

From the moon to snapchat

A few days ago I came across the awesome Apollo 11 source code on github and it got me thinking about snapchat. I learnt the basic of assembly and C/C++ back in high school, I remember coding this and loading my code in microprocessor plugged on breadboards to control a little LED panel. Apollo’s code is far away from simple, I can vaguely understand it.

The facts

In 1966, we sent men on the moon thanks to a 2MHz computer operating a 2.8MB assembly software. Today, 42 years later, we have snapchat. A 220MB application that requires 1.8GHz processor.

Breakdown

Apollo’s software is more than a hundred time lighter, uses a basic technology. And of course serves a great purpose. Snapchat is the complete opposite and feels like a regression to me. Entertainment is a legit purpose, but at this scale it has cost and say something about our society. Isn’t technology suppose to help us be better push the boundaries of our capabilities? Having fun and making our lives easier is fine. But when more than half of the tech industry is focused on social media, advertising, ecommerce I feel like we lost track of the purpose of this. I’m not angry about snapchat in particular. There is tons of useless apps out there. We should assess this and be mindful of the impact of how we use technology. And which technology we use. The Apollo module has been written in assembly language by actual people. It’s doesn’t uses 250 dependencies, rely on 40 process and scripts, depends on 15 APIs or take dozens of engineers to be maintained. No, It’s not simple but well engineered, maintainable and stable. People would die if it failed. Snapchat crashes all the time, it will probably never killed anyone, I hope.

We would be traveling to mars today with quantic super computer implanted in our brains if we were not obsessed with sending dick pics. This is how I feel about the tech industry. It honestly feel intelligence insulting to see what we are doing with the amazing technology we have available today. Thank god we have Elon Musk.