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What was the first programmable digital computer, or device containing a programmable digital computer, used on an aircraft or spacecraft for a purpose related to flight? To use modern devices as an analogy, a GPS navigation system counts, but a passenger, or even a pilot, using a cell phone for non-flight-related purposes does not.

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    $\begingroup$ If we're counting spacecraft, maybe the guidance computer on Gemini spacecraft? That was certainly an early one, if not the first. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Feb 4, 2023 at 7:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris yeah, I would count that $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Feb 4, 2023 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ The first digital avionic computer was not "programmable" in the same way we understand the term today. The F14 Tomcat used a fully digital flight control system but the "computer" did not execute any instructions. Instead they were blocks of digital logic (adders, multipliers, multiplexers, integrators etc.) that were connected together to calculate algorithms. So it was fully "parallel" (or rather fully pipelined) because it calculated all the numbers with each tick of the clock. It was digital though.. $\endgroup$
    – slebetman
    Feb 5, 2023 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ .. performing electronics operations/calculations on numbers instead of current and voltages (like traditional analog circuits) $\endgroup$
    – slebetman
    Feb 5, 2023 at 16:17

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The Gemini guidance computer was the first computer used on a spacecraft. It had 159744 bits of memory, a 7143 Hz clock, and weighed about 60 pounds.

The computer was used to effect the first successful rendezvous of spacecraft, between Gemini VI and VII. It also allowed for more precise control on reentry than was previously possible.

Other navigation in Gemini was primarily done by reference to ground networks, but the guidance computer was capable of navigation if connection to ground networks was lost.

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