[Coco] Never buy Torpedoes v1.0!!
farna at att.net
farna at att.net
Sun Sep 19 16:20:07 EDT 2004
One of may AMC friends sent me this, and I knew the programmers here would get a kick out of it! The torpedo was made by the British firm Lucas (okay, story points that out!). Because of reliability problems of British electric system in early cars sent over here (mostly in the 50s), Lucas was often called "Prine of Darkness" (their company slogan used to be "Prince of Light" or something similar, but you often didn't have lights...).
True Story, or so I'm told...
dated May 1994
Six or seven years ago, I worked with a fellow with the very British
name of Ken Appleby. He had a Spitfire, I had my '74 B, and we used to
motor out to Pickwick's Pub and throw darts after work on occasion.
Ken used to work for Lucas in the UK, specifically for a division of
Lucas that did military electronics. My favorite of his stories was
about the time he had been working on a computer-controlled torpedo. It
used magnetic core memory to store the programs, which had the advantage
of being very non-volatile as well as not susceptible to electro-magetic
So Ken got to ride on the boat for the first test of the torpedo that
used the computer with his program in it. Somewhere out in the North
Sea, on a Royal Navy cutter, Ken and his crew launched the first ever
run of this new weapon, and Ken learned a new respect for debugging.
The program was supposed to make the torpedo shoot off the boat, dive to
a depth at which it couldn't be easily detected, then circle toward the
target, climb to striking depth, and hit the target. There were on-board
sensors to detect sea level, and the torpedo was supposed to travel at a
preset distance below sea level, with constant feedback keeping it on track.
Somehow, somewhere, Ken had multiplied one of the 3D coordinates by a
negative number, and this error soon propagated through the
transformation matrix (the mathematical construct that models 3D space),
with predictable results.
Within instants of hitting the water, the torpedo -- instead of sinking
out of visible range -- blasted up and out from the water in a great
silver fountain, then continued skipping across the surface of the blue
like some sort of deranged wingless flying fish. Worse yet, instead of
circling toward the target, it circled all right, but began to return to
the ship that launched it. Fortunately it was not armed, but they still
detonated the self-destruct on it rather than let it slice through their
ship at 50 knots or whatever rate it travelled. Because of the
non-volatile core memory, Ken was able to debug the program from what
the Royal Navy frogmen could recover from it, and he fixed the problem
for Rev 2.0.
But I must admit that the image of the torpedo, splashing happily above
the surface of the water like an aroused porpoise, is one that returns
to me in idle moments such this. What else would a Lucas torpedo do but
try to fly?
Publisher, "American Independent
*Elite* publication for those
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aspects of AMC
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