Two weeks ago, NASA spokespeople acknowledged that the $6 billion Hubble Space Telescope had stopped transmitting data back to Earth. Today, the optimistic news is that ground control technicians have remote-booted the telescope's backup computer. The Hubble's No. 2 system is built around a pre-Pentium Intel 80486 microchip. Five of the six "redundant components" activated this week haven't been powered up since 1990. Before you type this is not news, read Nasa's carefully crafted PR prose from 1999. Look how much we've gotten used to commodity PC hardware since then:
In a good example of NASA's goal of "faster, cheaper, better," commercially developed, commonly available equipment was used to build this new computer at a fraction of the price it would cost to build a specialized computer designed specifically for the spaceflight environment.