Sunday, May 11, 2008

Adventures - Then and Now

Bruce Sterling has a post at his blog on Wired about an upcoming Long Now event "Mechanicrawl" celebrating “steampunk”. Now, I’m not too into steampunk - it’s fun to examine for its ingenuity and mechanical complexity, but I’ve worked around enough old machinery that I’m not infatuated or fascinated by such things* - but I am into Long Now events. I may go up for this for another reason too.

This event is going to be centered on and around the rebuilding of the torpedo targeting computer on the WW2-era diesel-electric submarine USS Pampanito. The computer is in the sail, also known as the conning tower, which is where the Combat Information Center (CIC) is located. Apparently the event is going to allow people into the conn to see the computer and the other things in the CIC. This is rare because normally access to the conn and the CIC is extremely limited.


One day at least 25 years ago, not long after I’d graduated from college and was living with a friend in South San Francisco and was still into doing wild and crazy things, we went down to the Pampanito late one weekday when it was late dusk. We bought our tickets and went onto the boat, down into the crew spaces on the main deck. We looked around there and then came up. We looked at the person in the booth, and took a chance and shot up onto the sail and down into the CIC. It was much more interesting in there, and not only because it was forbidden and we had beaten the rules. It’s also the most interesting part of the boat, because that is where all the important business took place. After all, this was a weapon in a shooting war, and that space was where the shooting was planned and took place. (It would have been cool to get into the torpedo room too, but we didn’t get there.) We spent a few minutes there, and I can still remember a big red (lit) plotting board. We also looked through the telescope, but I don’t remember if we were in the main compartment or in the CIC on the conn when we did that. I’m pretty certain we looked through the scope while in the CIC, because I was concerned that turning the periscope would be seen by the ticket-taker/authority and thought we better escape soon. One more thing - the view of San Francisco from the periscope was really great - it was bright and clear with great optics!

Anyway, Long Now is having an event and maybe I’ll go up for that.

*Okay, I’m into machinery just like any guy and this stuff will be cool!

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