FASO helps tame the microcomputer revolution
By Lawrence Charters, FASOTRAGRUPAC
North Islander, March 4, 1988, p. 1, 11
Do you find the Microcomputer Revolution revolting? Do you sometimes think you’ll be the last person on planet Earth to learn how to use a computer? Do you still have trouble getting a vending machine to operate properly? Do you hate articles that start with questions?
Actually, even “computer people” have problems with vending machines. As for the computer revolution, the Microcomputer Training Division of Fleet Aviation Specialized Operational Training Group Pacific (mercifully known as “FASO”), located at NAS North Island, is hard at work helping people control their users. The division has developed a number of courses to teach basic computer skills to Navy personnel, military and civilian, assigned to units under Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific. So far, several hundred people have completed one or more of the courses, without a single fatality.
For those thinking they can squeak by without using a computer – think again. Under the Navy’s first microcomputer contract, jointly sponsored with the Air Force, 30,000 Zenith Z-120 microcomputers were authorized and over 40,000 were purchased. A second contract was then signed, authorizing 90,000 Zenith Z-248 microcomputers over three years. As of December 1987, little more than half way through the contract, over 225,000 machines had been ordered, and the total may well reach half a million machines at the contract’s close. It goes without saying – but we’ll say it, anyway: if you want to work for the Navy you’ll probably have to use a computer.
Microcomputers can be used for an almost unlimited number of tasks, but the main uses are word processing, database management, spreadsheets. “Word processor” sounds sort of like “food processor,” and to some extent it is: words are sliced and diced until ready for serving. Since virtually everyone needs to write memos, reports and threatening letters at some point, word processing programs transform a computer into a “magic typewriter,” capable of producing perfectly typed, perfectly spelled documents without having to resort to erasers, white-out fluid, or a 10th grade English teacher. It should come as no surprise the Introduction to Word Processing class is the Mircocomputer Training Division’s most popular offering.
“Database management” sounds even stranger than ”word processing.” What is a database, and who cares how you manage it? In brief, a database is merely a collection of information, and database management refers to the computer’s ability to act as an electronic filing cabinet. Popular database uses include managing inventory and stock lists, keeping command rosters, tracking equipment and building maintenance, and similar tasks. Introduction to Database Management is the division’s second most popular course, with keen competition for the limited seating.
Spreadsheets are harder to describe, but are basically large pieces of (electronic) graph paper. Numbers, and sometimes words, are entered in rows and columns, and automatically added, subtracted, multiplied, divided, or even sorted, in any and every way possible. These “number crunching” abilities can be put to use to keep OPTAR reports, prepare training statistics, track flight hours, maintain softball team statistics, or even produce a recall roster. Since most spreadsheet programs can also produce impressive graphs, the Introduction to Spreadsheets course is not limited to ”bean counters;” every class seems to produces a surplus of art critics as well.
All these uses – word processing, database management, and spreadsheets – are covered in the division’s newest course, Introduction to Software Integration. In five days, students learn how to take parts of a spreadsheet, for example, and incorporate them into a word processing document, or merge selected portions of a database into a letter. Time is also devoted to telecommunications, the art of computer to computer communications.
Keep this in mind: the turn of the century is only 12 years away. Do you really think you’ll survive in the 21st century without making friends with a computer? For help in starting such a friendship, call FASO’s Quota Control at 437-7963 for information on class dates and availability.