memory chip orbit HA
A Gemini 3-flown Random Access Non-Destructive Readout 4096 Bit Memory Plane from the Gemini Spacecraft computer. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

You can own a piece of space history for under $2,000

Oct 26, 2015

Forget the 1986 World Series trophy - the memory chip used in the first computer to orbit the earth on a manned U.S. Space mission is up for auction.

The Gemini 3 flown Random Access Non-Destructive Readout 4096 Bit Memory Plane that was inside a Gemini Spacecraft computer will cross the auction block in Dallas on November 6, and has appeared on Heritage Auctions' live online bidding site.

The chip was a part of the Gemini 3 mission on March 23, 1965, the first two-man American mission, with Gus Grissom and John Young aboard. It was a part of a NASA program meant to discover new space travel techniques to help future missions.

In a deviation from the space program's Mercury missions, the Gemini launches installed an IBM on-board computer to help with prelaunch, rendezvous and re-entry phases, among others. The computer weighed 59 pounds, almost four times heavier than a present-day iMac.

“It’s amazing to think of what this big chip, with such limited capability, helped to achieve,” Michael Riley, senior historian and cataloger at Heritage Auctions, said in a statement. “This single chip is bigger than most smartphones, while most smartphones have millions of times its’ data storage capability.”

Of course, anyone who wants to use the RANAM to power today's gadgets will be sorely disappointed. One plane of the chip contains around 512 bytes of information, which means that a 128GB iPod Touch would have 250 million times the capacity of this chip.

The bid price is expected to be as high as $1,800, and bids are already coming in at $1,200 with days to go. Christmas shoppers, commence the bidding war.

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