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Plotters to calculators to computers, when did it happen?

Colin Parkinson

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Trying to recall When the artillery upgraded the tech equipment, for the Reserves I recall as a young gunner the plotters just going out the door with the introduction of the calculators and then the Milpac computer coming in (We went to pick our 2 up in Chilliwack, only to find someone had speared one with a forklift, so we only ran one for awhile)


found this

http://www.artillery.net/beta/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Att-2B-Significant-RCA-Events-1965-2012.pdf

 

Old Sweat

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I was the CIG at the school (then called Artillery Department of The Combat Arms School) 1974-1977. During that period we began to issue calculators to students after they had mastered the manual mathematics. About 1966 the Locating Wing (one IG and two or three AIsG) began to experiment with performing the survey calculations using a very basic programmable calculator as the analog device in use up to then was out of use in its original home (German banks) and could not be supported.

Shortly after the informal trial began the Locating Wing IG (Capt Mike Jeffery) poked his head into my office to let me know they had realized they could also produce map data for adjusting fire missions on the calculator. I gave DLR2 a head's up and was surprised by the enthusiastic response as our manual plotter was just about dead. Soon DArty appeared and the system was demonstrated to him, which resulted in him ordering its adoption forthwith using the HP42C calculator. While the technology was primitive by today's standards, it was advancing very rapidly and we all knew a proper computer was under development.

I believe the Milipac came along in the early to mid eighties and at that stage it completely outclassed the US FADAC and the British FACE.

It has been a long time ago, but that is generally recall it. You should also realize that we had tried to adopt a digital computing system in the early sixties, but the CGS vetoed it as he thought it was a gimmick without any real military application.
 

FJAG

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I'll add a couple of dates.

I joined in 65 and we still had the large artillery boards at that time. When I took officer training in 1969/70 we were taught both arty board and plotters, the latter of which had by then come into service in all the reg regiments.

In 1972 I was posted to 2 RCHA in Petawawa where we received at least two of the Brit Field Artillery Computer Equipment (FACE) systems. These systems were not at the time intended for general use with Canadian artillery but were issued to us to assist with testing the Gun Alignment and Control Systems that were then under development and various ancillary equipments (such as some very, very rudimentary data link transmission systems for transferring met data over the air) and related procedures.

By around 1974 we also received some very basic Texas Instruments hand held scientific calculators. These were somewhat advanced for the time in that they had magnetic programming sticks (about the size of the magnetic portion on the back of a credit card) on which you could make simple programs (I remember writing a small concentration and position correction routine)

As far as survey calculations I can tell you when I did my Regimental Survey Officer's course in 74 (I think) we still used slide rules and log tables -- no computers or calculators were issued or taught but you should remember that between 1966 and 1974 we got pretty much out of the locating business. Radars, sound ranging and higher than regimental survey all went out the window and nearly died a painful death.

I don't think I ever saw the HP 67 or HP 41Cs in 3 RCHA when I was last there from 78-81 - it was straight plotters I believe.

I'd left the artillery in 1981 and by then we had not received Milipacs. I think that Old Sweat is right that we had them in place by the mid 1980s. I also agree with his assessment re Milipac to FADAC and FACE. FACE especially was unloved at the time. It was heavy and clunky and took up a lot of space in the M577. Its displays were an antiquated  row of Nixie tubes (look it up in Google - one picture is worth a thousand words). A particularly annoying feature was that from when the data was entered the calculation of firing data took two-thirds of the round's time of flight. Since the limitation periods are pretty much all expired I can say that the data issued to the guns for many initial adjusting rounds came off the GPO's CP&FC graph and a GFT (Graphic Firing Table) so that the guns could be laid while the computer churned out the data. -- Old Sweat would not have approved.

:subbies:
 

devil39

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Mortar Platoon 1VP in 92-93 was decidedly anti computer.  We ignored them, locked up in their cases.  We all loved plotter boards.  Techniques varied from dotters to daubers, using grease pencil or staedler, both permanent and non.  Ahhhh the good old days. 
 

Old Sweat

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FJAG is pretty well spot on in his recollections, especially about the lack of speed of FACE, although as I recall it did kick out map data - bearing, range and angle of sight - almost instantly. FACE really looked like something out of a 60s spy movie as it sat in the CP playing flashing lights.

I can see using the CPFC graph instead of the check map, even if it could lead to things going astray in recording and circulating target records. THE RCA was definitely well behind the technology curve and the time and money we wasted on GACS did little to help us catch up. Think a DGMS with analog input of data and no gyro orientation, although such a device was used by 1 AB Bty in the High Arctic a few years earlier. We also had trouble coming up with a procedure for using FACE with Laser Range Finder polar data, but eventually this got sorted out.

 

muskrat89

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I think I did my Basic Arty Tech course in 1984ish. That was on the HP41CV calculator. I did the Milipac Conversion class at the Arty School around 1987ish? I'll have to look at my old service record.
 

d_edwards

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Boy, these posts take me back.  I recall when I joined as an Arty reservist in 82 that slide rules, plotting boards etc where the main tools of the CP.  A short time later the HP calculators arrived and I was trained on them in 83.  In my unit the programmable calculators of one type or another were used at least until 85 when I released.  I returned in 87, and by that time the Milipac was installed.  That timeline seems consistant with what Old sweat was talking about. 
 

LWH

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I went through Phase trg in 1983 (Jan to Aug).  On Phase 3 we used the newly introduced HP 41CV for producing firing data and the TTY for hard copy.  When we got to 2 RCHA in Sep, our Btys were using the 41-CV as well.  I was the GPO for A Tp in D Bty (we were using the 2 Tp system at the time), so in early 1984 I attended Serial 1 of the MiliPAC conversion crse at the RCSA.  It was end of Feb (came out of EX LIGHTNING STRIKE 84 in Earlton a few days early to attend.  Ex LS was a light scales Ex so our CP was a tent.  My Tp recce veh was a snowmobile and our gun dets were packed into 5/4Ts towing L5s with all their kit, incl tent gp stores, helicopter rigging and rucks.  We looked like a band of gypsys roaring down the road with kit hanging everywhere!).  Also on the 2 week crse were the GPOs/CPOs from the other Regts.  When we got back to the Petawawa we moved directly over to Norway for the AMF(L) Ex in March (Ex AVALANCHE EXPRESS?) , still using the HP 41-CV.  We used loaned BV-202s  as our prime movers with Norwegian drivers for that Ex along with our normal CPs that had been pre-positioned.  On return to Petawawa for EX SPARTAN GUN in April, we conducted MiliPAC conversion trg for the CP Dets and used it for live firing for the first time.  In May D Bty went to England for EX ARDENT GROUND in Otterburn (the location of some great parties in the Mess with dancers brought in from the clubs in Newcastle!).  Seem to recall we brought over the MiliPACs in Triwalls and installed them in the CPs for that Ex, but may be wrong on that one.  Bruce Monkhouse may have a better memory than me on that!

After that point we used the MiliPAC regularly in the Regt until it was phased out of service.
 

jeffb

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I have no idea how you guys remember these dates and exercises. I'm having a hard time just trying to remember what happened this year!
 

Old Sweat

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Much of what we do is rather forgettable, but what we are recalling are key events. For example, I mentioned the IG of Locating Wing because at the time I told my wife that I felt he was going to go the farthest of any of us in The Combat Arms School. Mike Jeffery, as some of you will have noted, became the CLS. And yes, we still exchange Christmas Cards and are on a first name basis.

 

jeffb

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And is the current Colonel Commandant... I have had the pleasure of speaking with him a few times.
 

Petard

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While I was at the school in the 90's, then again 05-08, I was involved with the development of the operator procedures as we transitioned from MiliPAC to, eventually, DGMS.
IIRC the rough computer transition timelines were:
83-98 MiliPAC
91-98 MiliPAC with GACS

95-97 TFTS experiment; intended as an interim system for LG1 and C3 equipped units, until MiliPAC replacement developed. This stand alone system was itself part of the larger ARDS experiment to develop an Arty only command and control system (somewhat like the US AFATDS). The whole system was unworkable and eventually two other improvised, stand alone, systems used
97-99 MiliPAC with ersatz lot factors for the C3, to make MiliPAC "bend" a C1 solution close to one relative to C3 ballistic performance
98-2001 BFCS Windows based system, developed by then Capt Bud Walsh, and became known as "bud-ware". Typically ran on a large square data terminal, same type meant to be used for TCCCS messaging, but some used software on an early hardened laptop

2001 - IFCCS, stand alone system on a laptop; P Res  Arty units still operate stand alone systems
2006-2012 DGMS, networked system on M777 using micro light UHF radios for CP to gun link, with the LINAPS system on the gun for laying and survey
2007-2012 EPIAFS mod to DGMS, making M777 capable of firing Excalibur ammunition
2012 - IFCSS, as part of the Army's networked command control system (LCSS)' it is supposed to link sensor to shooter, and provide some Ops (FSCC) type coordination tools; far as I know it is still in development, as there are still some issues with the medium capacity radios and integration

An interesting footnote is that there had been many attempts to teach basic gunnery with something other than MAPS (Manual Artillery Plotting System, and the bane of many a phase student), but in the end MAPS kept coming back as the easiest way to get the basics understood. Good thing too. In the early summer of 2007, a Gun Tp deployed near the Dahla dam had to resort to MAPS as they lost all ability to power or charge their laptops (don't know if they actually had to shoot manually though)
 

FJAG

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Petard said:
An interesting footnote is that there had been many attempts to teach basic gunnery with something other than MAPS (Manual Artillery Plotting System, and the bane of many a phase student), but in the end MAPS kept coming back as the easiest way to get the basics understood. Good thing too. In the early summer of 2007, a Gun Tp deployed near the Dahla dam had to resort to MAPS as they lost all ability to power or charge their laptops (don't know if they actually had to shoot manually though)

Interesting point that. It takes me back to my own basic arty officer training back in the dark ages.

As a high school student I had always struggled with trigonometry even though I tend to have a fairly analytic and scientific bent to my abilities. I still remember sitting in an H-hut in Shilo while one of my AIGs was pounding log tables and slide rules into us when suddenly the light simply came on like a switch had been thrown and the whole damn thing became clear as a bell. It was the practical application of the fundamentals that made the whole concept make sense and ever after there wasn't a gunnery problem that wasn't capable of being solved as long as I had a piece of graph paper and a FT or GFT as a minimum.

Glad to see those basics are still being taught. Much as I love computers; they do fail from time to time.

:cheers:
 

Old Sweat

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There is a bit more to the story than that. I believe at one time we fell for the technology rules thing and learned an unpleasant lesson a few years back. I am not completely up on all the details, but it wasn't pretty.

I got hints from various individuals, or at least enough to piece most of it together.

FJAG, I had the same experience as an 18-year-old recruit in the RCA Depot when our course officer explained the theory of indirect fire and gun laying to our troop back in 1958.
 

FJAG

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Old Sweat said:
There is a bit more to the story than that. I believe at one time we fell for the technology rules thing and learned an unpleasant lesson a few years back. I am not completely up on all the details, but it wasn't pretty.

I got hints from various individuals, or at least enough to piece most of it together.

I'd like to hear the story some time. PM me if you have some time - I presume you're down south like me right now.

:cheers:
 

Colin Parkinson

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Speaking of training, I remember being volunteered to help operate the "puff table" that we had in our armoury basement. Quite fascinating and even got to watch a shoot on a range with the 14.5mm training gun.
 

vonGarvin

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I was never a gunner, but I was mortar platoon commander in 2 RCR (I was the last one, as a matter of fact...)
Anyway, on my advanced mortar course, we were taught the manual method of calculating data, as well as the Hewlett Packard "computer" (hand-held calculator with an external RAM or ROM contraption.  Can't remember if it was read-only or random-access.  But I digress....)

Anyway, our final PO check was for each candidate to participate in a fire plan as:
Fire Controller;
Group Commander;
Line NCO; and
CP Operator.

Each fire plan was live fired by a group of 4 mortars and was done as a hasty fire plan.  For my turn "in the box" as CP Operator, I was the only candidate to use manual means (the plotter board).  I found for my own purposes that I could better "visualise" what was going on.  Of course, my concurrent smoke and HE mission had as their first adjustments: " Drop X, Right Y" and "Add X, Left Y", making both "dots" into one big "dot".  I survived the event :)

 

Petard

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"old and reliable" plotting boards are still being used for mortars by the way:
https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/tender-notice/PW-QF-107-23868
 
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