A technician's view

Well, it has been some time. My advice is to never get involved in a patenting process. It eats time with no guarantee of any success.

Some years ago while I was still in the Navy, I was at a shore duty station. This was pure luck, as it came after my 2 1/2 years of training. I would have expected to spend several years at sea before shore duty.

Dam Neck Virginia was a good place to learn about the navy's computer equipment. The mean time between failures was measured in years, so if there wasn't a lot of it on hand, you hardly got to get good at troubleshooting.

Then we lost out chief petty officer to sea duty. The degree of misfortune was brought home by the sympathy card from the duty station our new chief was coming from. He was an E-9, as high as enlisted ranks go, and a real cruddy person (imagine worse language).

Chief M., as I will refer to him, arrived, and our fears were realized. He had gone to all the schools the Navy had to offer, but simply used his knowledge as a club. He never once shared that knowledge, or offered to teach about anything at all. That made him arrogant and worthless all at once.

He had weaknesses, though. He had stomach problems, so getting in his face brought out the roll of Tums. We awarded prizes bases on the number of Tums he was forced to eat while chewing on you butt.

He also could not troubleshoot. He had absolutely no sense of how to go about finding a problem, but was too arrogant to admit it. Being a control freak, he had to take charge of a problem, but had absolutely no idea of how to run it down.

One of the best zingers got done to the chief by the display techs (we were all Data Systems Technicians, but trained on computers & peripherals, radio data links, or the Hughes Aircraft [read Huge Aircraft] display consoles).

Part of the interior of the building at Dam Neck was mock-ups of various classes of ship's combat information centers. All had numbers of the ubiquitous display console. The consoles were pretty advanced for the middle '60s, but weenie by today's standards. For one thing, they had an external source for the symbols displayed on the screen.

That meant that the Huge Aircraft symbol generator fed multiple loads on several strings of consoles, which made adjustments to the symbols kind of a challenge. The normal technique was to go to the cruddiest-looking console and watch the effect of the SG adjustments on its screen. When it looked good, the others did, too, by definition if not by appearance.

When Chief M. got around to looking into display console maintenance, he was just beside himself. Way too casual to suit him. He got so tight when the defended zone adjustment was demo'ed that he just lost it (you dropped a quarter on the screen, put the console in the 128 mile range, and adjusted the dotted circle so it just fit around the quarter - the defended zone was that area your missiles could reach).

So the Chief canceled liberty for the display techs, and demanded that all adjustments be made perfectly by the manual. The display people worked all night - no real biggie, as we ran three shifts - training in the day, development in the evening, and maintence all night.

Chief M. came in next morning, looked at a console, and started screaming (and consuming Tums). A delegation of techs came out with the Fluke differential voltmeter already warmed up, and showed the chief that every adjustment was perfect, by the manual. If you didn't mind circles out of round and the wrong size, etc. it just looked like a three-year-old's drawing project.

Several hours later, having each and every adjustment shown to him to be absolutely perfect, Chief M. wandered off, muttering. The techs spent a few more hours getting things right, and got left alone.

Arrogance and inability make ugly partners.

Next, I'll tell a few of my adventures with Chief M.

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