Mountain View Voice

Opinion - September 16, 2011

Another blow for Hangar One

Among all the indignities bestowed on Hangar One over the years, for hangar aficionado Steve Williams the proverbial last straw is the method being used to document the iconic structure's historic value with interviews, stories and photos.

As anyone who passes Moffett Field on the Bayshore Freeway knows, the Hangar's toxic siding is slowly being peeled off, although there are no funds in sight to install a new skin. As part of the agreement to remove the siding, the Navy agreed to document some of the Hangar's long history during its more than 75 years as the largest structure at the former Navy airfield.

But while Williams supports the history project, he strongly objects to the Navy contractor's use of CDs to record the work, since it relies on Adobe Flash technology in order to be viewed. He believes this software will soon be obsolete and will make it much more difficult for historians to access the information. In response to a complaint from Williams, who is a member of the Save Hangar One Committee and the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Committee, the Navy said simply that it doesn't have the money budgeted to make a change in the documentation process.

Williams, who uses an iPad — which doesn't run Flash — told the Moffett restoration committee last week that he is "extremely disappointed that the CD will provide such little historical value to the community."

He said the Flash technology is sure to be replaced in the near future, leaving the irreplaceable Hangar One recordings out of reach for anyone without the obsolete equipment. Just taking away the iPad and iPod audience means millions of potential users will be cut off from the Hangar's history.

Despite his effort to work with the Navy to find ways to transfer the data to another format with "open standards," Williams found that San Francisco contractor Planet 9, which made the CD, has some proprietary code embedded in the presentation, which the company will not release. Without it, Williams said it would be very difficult to reproduce the CD in another format.

Coupled with all the other setbacks, including the real possibility that it may take years to find the funds to recover Hangar One with new siding, this lack of awareness on the part of the Navy is very disappointing. One of the first questions that should be asked in any discussion of making a historic recording is what format would be best and accessible to the most people to document the building's most recent indignity.

Unfortunately, that was not done and now users of the iPad, by far the world's most popular tablet computer, will not be able to view the CD.

This is a problem that the Navy should have seen coming. Perhaps someone will produce an app in the cloud that will enable viewers using any type of equipment to view this important document. After all, the most important goal of this exercise is to create documentation that will last far into the future.

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