When the Space Shuttle Discovery glided home a few days ago, one of the electronic components which made it possible was the humble Intel 8086 processor.
Some of the chips powering support systems for the shuttle were purchased from a motley variety of suppliers including sellers on eBay. The New York Times told the story six years ago:
Civilian electronic markets now move so fast, and the shuttles are so old, that NASA and its contractors must scramble to find substitutes.
In the past, NASA procurement experts would go through old catalogs and call suppliers to try to find parts. Today, the hunt has become easier with Internet search engines and sites like eBay, which auctions nearly everything.
The 8086 processor just celebrated the 30th anniversary of its release. The space shuttle program just celebrated the 27th anniversary of the maiden shuttle launch.
Image of the 8088 processor, sibling to the 8086, courtesy of Intel’s Microprocessor Hall of Fame.