'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Monday, October 31, 2011

Midway Revisited

I was anxiously awaiting Craig Symonds' new book on the Battle of Midway.  Having read both Miracle at Midway and Incredible Victory, I wasn't sure what Professor Symonds could offer.  I haven't read the newer edition of Shattered Sword, which relates an almost exclusive Japanese viewpoint of the battle.  But I was very interested to read this volume since this was the first book on the battle in nearly 25 years and I wondered what Professor Symonds had to say.  Yes, that's right Craig Symonds was my academic adviser when I was at USNA and one of my favorite professors.  SO, yes, I could be a little biased.

However, I have to say that Professor Symonds not only brought out some details of the battle that I don't remember in the other books, but does an excellent job of putting Midway into the context of the naval campaign fought between the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the first six months of 1942.  Specifically, Professor Symonds narrates how Adm Chester Nimitz brought the US Pacific Fleet from the depths of Pearl Harbor to turn back the Japanese at Midway.  The early American carrier operations, Doolittle's Raid, and the Battle of Coral Sea are all placed in operational context by Symonds, including the Japanese and American planning for the battle.

Operationally, the crucial day of June 4 is outlined in excellent but not overwhelming detail, and Symonds pulls no punches in his critique of both Japanese and American leadership.  I actually understood the story of the Hornet air group and how they became lost during the battle and played no role in the sinking of 3 Japanese carriers that crucial morning.  More interesting is what happened after the air group got back and how the Hornet captain and group commander essentially gun-decked the after action report to cover up the navigational error.  More fascinating is the detail on the attrition of the American air groups and how even the victors were nearly out of airplanes and pilots by the time the battle was over. 

Professor Symonds also busts many of the "miracle myths" of the battle by showing that Nimitz actually had a well thought out plan, based on pretty solid intelligence, and an acute understanding of what his forces were and were not capable of carrying out.

This was indeed a fresh take on this battle and an excellent addition to the growing literature on the naval side of World War II.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and Apple

So the internet is filled with retrospectives today on the passing of Steve Jobs, the co-founder and creative genius behind the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.  One of the best is from Wired.

BUT, here's my perspective, as a Mac user for 25 years...yup, that's right...25 years.  I have owned:
  • The 2nd generation Mac with 512K memory and the double sided 3.5 inch 800K floppy (astronomical amounts of memory in those days) - 1986
  • A Performa 630-  COLOR..and so cool-about 1991
  • A Powerbook 100..with attached floppy...the great-grandfather of the MacBook Air...and that little rollerball was so cool-1991-  This little gem got me through my first Master's degree
  • A Powerbook 165C My first color laptop.-1996
  • The color iMac-cheesy, but oh so functional-1998
  • The FIRST flatpanel iMac- my transition to OSX-2001
  • A white iBook- which survived my son's first year of college- more or less-2002
  • A 17" Macbook Pro- which I still have, love and am loath to replace- 2005- this was for my second Masters
  • 13" Macbook Air- the wife's first laptop JUST for her...she loves it-2010
  • and.....my iPad (1 week ago) which is probably going to be come my 75% solution for most of my computing needs.
  • PLUS my iPhone..greatest phone ever.
So, there you have it, I have been with Apple through the good times, the bad times, and the insanely great times.  Through it all, Steve Jobs did one thing...he turned technology from a geek toy, to a gadget, to an accessory, making data and information accessible to people in ways they couldn't even fathom.

I am happy to say I have never owned a PC, but since I have used one at work, I can definitely say, the Mac is indeed a better experience.  Better technology?  Not so much anymore, and in fact, in some aspects PCs are better.  More software?  No, but the internet is going to make the basic OS a commodity before too long..when you can buy OSX for less than $100, can Bill Gates keep selling Windows for $200-$300 forever?  I don't think so.

But the Mac is indeed an experience, and I can positively say that in my 25 years of experience I have had 1, yes exactly 1 bad experience with a software upgrade for my Apple products-- a very bad time with my iPhone 3G and iOS 3.0....which just goes to show, you should never use the x.0 version of ANYTHING.  But I have never had a problem installing software, printer drives, attaching new devices...it all just worked...the first time.  And I have (knock on wood)  NEVER had a computer virus...nope not in 25 years. NOT ONE...can any Windoze user say that?  I don't think so....And that's why I kept coming back.

Was I thrilled with everything Apple and Steve Jobs did? Nope, I thought the colored iMacs and iBooks were a little silly, even though I bought one...and when Steve was forced out and Apple tried to make clones, I know that was gonna be a fiasco.

But overall, I smiled with satisfaction when Apple became, for a short time, the most valuable company on the planet this year.  I remember in the early 1990s when they were going bust and we were all going to be doomed to Windoze slavery.

So rest well Steve Jobs...you have made technology usable to millions of techno-challenged people (like my spouse) who would NEVER have typed a command line or dealt with MS-DOS.  Oh, and she loved buying iPods in red...chick-technology.

That's when you know the product and technology has arrived, when the color of the product is the most important issue, not whether the technology will work. 

This is the first Mac model I owned...8Khz Processor, 512K RAM, 800K floppy and...wait for it....you could hook up a 20MB external hard drive....I still have it...in my attic and IT STILL WORKS...kinda cool the old days when a System, Finder, MacWrite and a few files fit on a single 800K floppy.
The iPad2...a combination e-reader, email machine, web browser...who know what.......64G of memory, touch screen which is really impressive...music, email, pictures, videos...25 years of Apple has come a long way