Some news items

Michael Raffety

Jan. 11, 2016

In the Dec. 30, 2015, Mountain Democrat Publisher Richard Esposito wrote a long dissertation about technological change as part of his first message as newly installed county Chamber of Commerce president.

What caught my eye was an item about the first computer housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965. I worked my way through college in the 1970s as a graveyard shift security guard, first at the Bank of America main computer center at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. We all ran “man traps,” which were glassed-in entrance and exit doors. Employees came in the first door, if we allowed them and they didn’t look suspicious. Then the employee would hold his or her badge up to a magnifying glass so that the guard behind the bullet-proof glass could see it and match it up with the face. Then the guard would press the button to allow the employee to exit the “man trap” into the building.

There were other posts for security, including the interior parking lot and some other spots inside. If you weren’t working a “man trap” a sergeant would hide a fake bomb for you to find.

At one of the less busy guard posts I was able to bring my portable typewriter (came with its own carrying case) and bang out term papers.

Eventually I got a less intense assignment, checking badges at the Wells Fargo Computer Center. No “man traps” no bomb drills and no graveyard shift. I worked the swing shift and knew everybody who worked in the computer center.

The Wells Fargo computer took up an entire floor, with its operators constantly changing big reels of magnetic tape, similar to what the old reel-to-reel tape recorders used, only bigger.

As noted in Esposito’s “President’s Message on the “Voice of Business” page, that whole computer room could be replaced by a cell phone. More than likely nowadays a bank of servers run computers for banks the size of the ones that were headquartered in San Francisco then. The work a bank computer has to do these days is so much more sophisticated, including offering online banking.

At El Dorado Savings now each teller has a scanner that reads the checks a person brings in for deposit and totals them up.

. . . .

One thing that puzzled me about the San Bernardino terrorist attack on the Christmas party of environmental health inspectors was that no one in the room had a concealed weapon. People who have to shut down restaurants for health violations can face some threatening situations. Chefs can often often be volatile. I only thought of this because when I taught photography at the “University Behind Raley’s” one of my students was a restaurant inspector for the county. That person informed me that she was packing a pistol. Although, realistically I doubt anyone would bring a concealed weapon to a Christmas party.

At the last Taxpayers breakfast of 2015 Sheriff John D’Agostini said he had issued 4,000 concealed weapons permits and more applications to his office were pending review by the state. Terrorists don’t stand a chance in El Dorado County.

The sheriff wants to change the renewal period by several years. There are several ways to lose a permit, including getting arrested for DUI, brandishing and not doing a good job of concealing it so that somebody in Wal-Mart sees your weapon and has a panic attack.

. . . .

 In writing about touring the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Pearl Harbor I forgot that I had seen BB-59, the USS Massachusetts in Fall River, Mass. We happened across it as part of a tour of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but did not tour the battleship. It was tied up to some concrete pilings below the Charles M. Braga JR. Memorial Bridge (Fall River native killed in attack on Pearl Harbor) and formed Battleship Cove, providing a location for small boats to anchor.

Also included in what is billed as the largest collection of WWII naval vessels are a submarine, a Soviet-built missile corvette (built in 1984) and used by the East German Navy and then the federal German Navy after unification, eventually becoming a U.S. Navy vessel. In an interior display are two PT boats.

Half a million school kids have slept overnight on the USS Massachusetts. The bunks and dining facilities are pretty good on battleships.

Also anchored as part of Battleship Cove is Destroyer No. 850, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., named for President John F. Kennedy’s older brother, a pilot who was killed in World War II. Here’s the ironic part. The USS Kennedy participated in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of Oct. 16-28, 1962.

As a 16-year-old, the confrontation with the Soviet Union over its missiles 90 miles off the Coast of Florida seemed interesting, but adults were very nervous and feared nuclear war at the time.

.. . . .

 There’s a reason the USS Hornet, CVA-12, was retired from the fleet in 1970. It had a teak flight deck. Yes, there was steel under it, but the steel is rusting out and the teak is leaking through to officers’ quarters below. Doing a temporary patch is costing the Hornet Foundation about $500,000 for a contractor to apply polypartic coating. The foundation is $125,000 short of the full contract price, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Battleships have teak decks but they have less area to maintain. The Hornet has 100,000 square feet of teak decking. Commissioned in 1943, the Hornet took its name after the only U.S. carrier sunk in World War II in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands in 1942. CV-8, Hornet had launched Dootlittle’s B-25 raiders to bomb Japan.

The newly minted Hornet, CV-12, and its planes shot down 1,410 enemy aircraft. In 1951 the Hornet was given an angled flight deck and designated as CVA-12, an attack aircraft carrier.

It participated in the Vietnam War, but is famous for recovering two capsules and astronauts who had participated in lunar landing in 1969.

Docked in Alameda, the ship gets 80,000 visitors a year. It could get 10 times that if it moved to San Francisco.

The USS Midway, CVA-41, docked in downtown San Diego hosted 1 million visitors a year as of 2012. That year, by the way, it hosted a college basketball game. The Midway is administered by a retired admiral who runs a squared away operation, hosting business groups and convention dinners. The airplane collection is first class. The only time I’ve ever been in the engine room of an aircraft carrier was when I toured the Midway. Volunteers explained the engine room.

The Midway, by the way, was designed with an armor-plated fight deck – no teak.

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