The Old Is Still NewFriday, April 08, 2011
A few days ago I wrote here about the 19th century qwerty typewriter keyboard and how it was designed to prevent lockup in conventional typewriters that could not cope with the expert and fast hands of professional typists of the Pitman ilk. I watch my granddaughter text with her thumbs on her phone and I watch my wife type (or attempt to) on the miniature and ill-designed qwerty on her laptop.
Whatever happened to all those lessons of sitting up straight and being told of the precise angle of ones hands in order to use that IBM Selectric? Only those with typing skills using conventional (old style computer keyboards that are set at a slight angle) can type quickly and accurately. All others lumber and must depend on spell check.
In short we in the 21st century must re-design or re-think how we are going to communicate in written form if we are going to improve on the ancient technology still in use. Perhaps voice recognition software will one day make typing obsolete. But we are not there.
I thought about the qwerty when I read articles about Libyan rebels (or if we want to give them a bit more respect, the officially recognized representatives of Libya by France) demanding more and more efficient air support from NATO. What had transpired since the earlier days of Tomahawk missiles raining down on radar sites?
When I read this article by Eric Schmitt, U.S. Gives Its Air Power Expansive Role in Libya, in my March 28 NY Times I read it in a perfunctory manner. Only in the last few days did I remember this paragraph:
For the Americans, six tank-killing A-10 Warthogs that fire laser-guided Maverick missiles or 30-millimeter cannons arrived on the scene this weekend. The United States also deployed two B-1B bombers, as well as two AC-130 gunships, lumbering aircraft that orbit over targets at roughly 15,000 feet, bristling with 40-millimeter and 105-millimeter cannons. The gunships’ weapons are so precise that they could operate against Libyan forces in cities, which so far have been off limits for fear of civilian casualties.
In 1966 when I was a conscript in the Argentine Navy seconded to the US Senior Naval Advisory Group in Buenos Aires, the C-130 Hercules transport was used by the US Navy to transport personnel to and from Buenos Aires to the “secret” Panama base where Argentine naval officers and non-commissioned officers (plus those from the other Argentine services, the army and the air force) to train them in anti guerrilla (the word terrorist was still not in mainstream use) warfare. I flew in one of these large transports and by then (1966) they were already not new as they had been designed in 1954.
In multiple visits to air shows since I came to Vancouver in 1975 I have seen, on the ground, the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. From the beginning I was not in the least interested in this ugly airplane (equally ugly was its WW-II namesake the P-47 Thunderbolt that was affectionately called the Jug).
Fairchild Republic does not even exist as an airplane manufacturing company even though the A-10 (called, and not with affection, the Warthog). This plane was designed to attack and destroy Russian tanks in a war in which the Russians were to invade Western Europe in a war that never was. The C-130 was designed to transport stuff and be able to land and takeoff in dirt runways.
Of late, articles in the NY Times have pointed out that since the US stopped leading the air assaults on Muammar el-Qaddafi’s loyalist troops, NATO has been unable to attack them if they are too close to civilian populations. What is the reason for this?
The answer is a simple one. The jets flown by France and England (and other NATO nations) do not have the capability to fly low and slow (with an emphasis on slow) and are unable to attack loyalist troops without having “collateral” damage. Those jets were designed to attack other jets(in spite of the fact that some of them are equipped with the so called smart bombs) not tanks and artillery close to city population.
Those A-10s and the gunship variant of the C-130, the AC-130 are really 20th century qwerty keyboards whose usefulness of design has yet to be applied to other aircraft.
The old is still new.
An interesting take on the A-10