Burt Rutan: Space race is like the Apple II


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The Up Experience, held October 25, 2012, in Houston, Texas, was "an engaging and intellectually stimulating event that brings together 16 of the world's most extraordinary thought leaders, creators, and innovators". It was akin TED Talk, providing which guests with 20 minutes to share their ideas, experiences, and philosophies.

What did Virgin Galactic spacecraft designer Burt Rutan do with that limited time? The same thing any of us would: cite the Apple II! Rutan made the case for the privatization of space travel and the industry of space tourism by likening it to the perpetual force behind technological innovation: entertainment.

Aerospace engineer and founder of Scaled Composites,
Burt Rutan imagines what investing in suborbital and
commercial spaceflight means for the future of space technology.

I find the historical precedent Rutan cites to be accurate: the need for more powerful graphic cards in the 1990s arose from a desire not to produce more accurate CAD models, but to play Doom and Quake. It was all other enterprises that rely on high-fidelity imaging that then benefitted. Would the film industry have Adobe Premier and Final Cut if its producers and editors hadn't grown up playing first-person shooters?

Perhaps some day we'll send an Apple II into space, and then the circle will be complete. In the meantime, the full video of Rutan's speech was recorded by Fora.TV, the same channel that produced last year's interview with Steve Wozniak about the Children's Discovery Museum.

(Hat tip to Doug Messier of Parabolic Arc)


  1. Interesting point. I had never thought in this way of how "fun" technologies lead to more serious and advanced breakthroughs, though I was aware that it was gaming that moved forward the graphics and speed capabilities of computers.