Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Where were you the week of Aug. 7th 1990?

I was on my way to US Central Command!

As I've described previously, some of the work I was doing at ANL revolved around visualization of wargames. Imagine my surprise when I get a call on a Friday or Saturday of that week telling me to gather my stuff and be on a plane to Tampa. We had developed a number of applications for CENTCOM and also were some of the few that understood NeWS, the window system which some of the visualization tools were written in.

Something to remember is that we had no security clearances. We were called down to a very secure building, where I almost lost my favorite mix tape in a previous visit, where we were always escorted around with folks yelling "Red Badge!" as we walked into rooms with code key locks. This alerted everyone to secure potential secret information from us. We soon found out that what was wanted were some changes to a system that displayed flight sorties and some code of ours that modeled a war game. The major change was in the visualization. Not for the screen but rather for print outs. What they wanted was to have a "driver" to output the maps and symbology of the on-screen visualization to a huge plotter device they had.

If I recall correctly it was an HP plotter and this was our first exposure to PCL. So we were asked to essentialy code our PostScript drawing routines (which was the underlying imaging system utilized by NeWS) to PCL for display. We spent several long days working away. There were no windows in this place and the Lt. Col. that was our chaperone asked us if we wanted something to eat. Sure... Pizza! Little did I know this would be the source of another "first" in my life. The "pizza" arrives. Dominoes, WTH is Dominoes?!? Eat a couple pieces... GACK.. Worst pizza I've ever had in my life! But... It was really late, we were hungry and the food was cheap. We survived.

After several days it was time to head back home. Operation Desert Shield was in full swing. It was exciting to work on the mapping and output routines. It was only after the visit that I found out that the room we passed on the way to the restroom, which was guarded by two guys with rifles, was where Gen. Schwartzkopf was hanging out at the time. The maps we were trying to print out were specifically to present in those briefings. Later I also found the writeup (see link below) which details why some young kids and game programmers etc... were suddenly being called on to help with the planning for something like Desert Shield/Storm.

In the time that passed it was weird to see our friends in the service put on the desert fatigues and load Sun workstations into an air-conditioned trailer that was dropped into Kuwait. Amazing to get emails from our guys with questions about the software we had sent them from the post out there.


Desert ShieldTimeline

No comments: