Military Embedded Systems

December 7 still lives in infamy

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December 01, 2006

Chris A. Cuifo

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

For me, December 7 ? Pearl Harbor Day ? isn?t about remembering the death and carnage, the hatred, or the ?glory? of war. It?s a time to reflect on what we learned about technology then, and how quite literally the ?world of technology? continues to evolve today ? from America, to Europe, to India, Korea, China ? and Japan.

Some people may have missed the fact that December 7 was Pearl Harbor Day, the day in 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. But with the world a pretty scary place these days due to terrorism, rogue states like North Korea, and wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, is it really necessary to remember the event that kicked off the US entry into World War II?

Every year I swear I’m going to hang my American flag on December 7 in honor of Pearl Harbor Day, 1941. Trouble is, this time of the year in the Pacific Northwest, it’s dark when I leave in the morning and pitch black when I get home. Even worse, it’s either raining, snowing, or the wind is howling in the Columbia River Gorge at 40 mph. A flag doesn’t stand a chance.

Still, it’s important to remember December 7 not because we are at war on two fronts in the world or because the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has changed our lives, and not so we think of our Japanese allies in a negative light. Rather, there are three reasons I like to think of December 7, the day that then-president Roosevelt said will “live in infamy”:

Japan and the Japanese people are US allies. Japan has consistently sided with the US in recent world events, and was even an active member of the “Coalition of the Willing” during OEF [Operation (Iraqi) Enduring Freedom]. I believe that Japan has withdrawn most of its “advisors” as a result of pressure from the Japanese people, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they stood by us over the past four years.

A lot of critical US military technology comes from Japan. Don’t believe me?  It always makes me laugh when people of my parents’ generation speak ill of “foreigners” like the tech powerhouses in Southeast Asia. Where do you think the majority of our LCD displays used in fighter cockpits come from?  (Japan and, increasingly, South Korea.) In fact, the typical NIMITZ class aircraft carrier has more than 3,000 LCD displays on it. Last time I checked, there were only one or two domestic manufacturers of LCD displays. (One of them is Planar, close to me and located in Oregon: www.planar.com).

And although the recently introduced Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) is making headlines because there aren’t enough of them to go around for the 2006 Christmas season (a rumored 200,000 are only available for sale in the US), the PS3 is based upon the IBM/Sony/Toshiba CellBE processor. Guess which multicore CPU forms the core (pun intended) of Mercury Computer’s next-gen ultra high-performance image processors for radar and sonar systems? Yep: the CellBE ... jointly developed with Japanese engineers.

And finally, World War II brought to us incredible technology and really was the past century’s catalyst for breakthroughs we today take for granted. I’m a student of World War II and am constantly fascinated by electrical, mechanical, and other breakthroughs from the late ’30s into the transistor age. Some key examples: FM radio, nylon, production-worthy plastic (remember Bakelite, the precursor to modern plastic?), tin cans, microbots (insects and bats were rigged with explosives but never successfully deployed), long-haul telephone encryption, the first mainframe computer (a huge subject I won’t go into here), robust vacuum tubes, high-quality production recording machines (used by Hitler to spread “real-time” propaganda across Germany), rockets, jet engines (ME262), and of course: the atom bomb. Love ‘em or hate ‘em … these are but a small example of the technology developed as a run-up to, during, and shortly after World War II.

December 6, 2006


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For me, December 7 – Pearl Harbor Day – isn’t about remembering the death and carnage, the hatred, or the “glory” of war. It’s a time to reflect on what we learned about technology then, and how quite literally the “world of technology” continues to evolve today – from America, to Europe, to India, Korea, China … and Japan.

To read more of Chris Ciufo’s commentary, check out www.vmenow.com.

 

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