Vol. 1, Issue 10, July 22, 2003
Dr. Watson Cures All.

Army Creates Mac-Compatible Battalion

The Army announced today that it would be switching over a battalion in the 1st Infantry Division to operate entirely on the Macintosh OSX platform.

"Our goal is to become better, faster, and pack more of a punch. Basically, we want to think different," said Brigadier General Oscar Trent. "We're confident that the new software will enhance both the combat effectiveness of this mechanized division, as well as improve field conditions for our soliders."

Today's mechanized infantry battalions routinely depend on computers for command and control, individual vehicle and weapon systems control, and counterintelligence, among other things. The Army has been struggling for years with the Cold War era system of contracting, under which each device or system had software separately contracted and coded. Consequently, there are over 243,000 programs to run a typical armored unit, most of which are catastrophically incompatible with each other.

"Part of the problem, too, is the increasing level of sophistication expected of the average solider," said retired general and Watley Review commentator Arnold Frumm. " Let's face it, most people with good computer skills don't sign up for four-year stints carrying 80 pounds of gear through the deserts of Afghanistan. Expecting these young men and women to cope with separate software platforms for their night vision goggles, their GPS units, and their MRE self-heating systems is a bit much."

The military has made previous attempts to adopt off-the-shelf software, most infamously when the Navy installed Windows 95 on an aircraft carrier battle group. In 1999, fifteen destroyers, along with the nuclear carrier U.S.S. Nimitz, spent an uncomfortable four days drifting near the Arctic circle as they combated the "blue screen of death." Another attempt to save money, by installing Outlook Express, caused the Pentagon's intranet to implode under a storm of viruses within six hours of installation.

"The Macs are a little less unstable," said Trent, "and having access to iPods will mean soldiers can dispense with those damn boom boxes." This will reduce the amount of gear which the soliders carry by at least 20 pounds.

The battalion, which has adopted "Ooey GUI the Worm" as its new mascot, faces challenges. For one thing, most existing software is not compatible with the new operating system; those few systems with existing Mac compatibility, such as the anti-tank missile systems, only run in Mac Classic OS 9. In addition, the standard computer mouse fares poorly in sandstorms and other inclement weather, a significant drawback when using pull-down menus in combat situations.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played down the significance of the experimental battalion, however. "I don't see the Macintosh platform being used in more than five to eight percent of our military, down the road," he stated earlier today. "Though I have to admit, the i-Humvee looks pretty cool."

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