Letters to the editor

Bar codes kept trains on time

In the GCN Interview, 'How a tiny label controls a tank,' Timothy M. McGilloway of Zebra Technologies Corp. of Vernon Hills, Ill., claims the U.S. government invented bar codes.

In the middle 1950s the B & O Railroad and others were using bar codes riveted onto the sides of railroad cars to keep track of where the cars were. This was about 50 years ago.
Neither the government nor the Army invented bar codes.

Noel R. Hubbard

Bedford, Ind.

Do away with paper? Not so fast

I am a retired senior master sergeant with the Air Force and now a civilian Air Force employee with 38 years of working in records management.

Throughout my career, there has been a big push for the paperless office. I have the hardest time comprehending information in electronic documents without printing the document and highlighting important information.

I keep thinking of the memo from the FBI's Phoenix office that has been in the national news. I see the pictures of a single-spaced document and I wonder if the document was ever printed out and placed in some kind of read file for management to review.

I read articles about the expenditure of funds for new IT to improve the records management systems in the federal government. But I believe some of the manual records management techniques that were in place when I joined the Air Force should not be done away with. For example, documents for multiple review should be placed in a read file with everyone's initials indicating they have reviewed the information in the file.

John M. Whited

Personnel assistant

Bellevue, Wash.

Great site, poor accessibility

I just read John McCormick's column, 'Can Flash MX beat .NET?' [GCN, July 1, Page 26].

It would be wonderful if someone developed software that would prevent federal workers from generating products that are inaccessible to the disabled, because we are mandated under Section 508 to provide accessible electronic media. None of the currently available or developing technologies, as far as I know, have been created to allow dummy-proof content entry for government professionals who develop electronic media requiring accessibility for the disabled.

I just retrofitted our agency's Web site using Dreamweaver from Macromedia Inc. of San Francisco. In spite of the admitted ease of this application, I sometimes wish I had stuck with Composer from Netscape Communications Corp. and manual coding. As a result of the retrofitting, I ended up with a really nice Web site, but I have introduced hundreds of accessibility errors.

So far, I've been told by Macromedia and Usablenet, which develops accessibility software for Dreamweaver, that I'll probably have to manually revise almost every error'more than 812 pages and counting.

We're having quite a bit of internal discussion about whether we should endorse Macromedia's Flash MX as the tool of choice for Internet applications, but I'm beginning to doubt whether Flash MX would be accessible.

D.A. Brown

Habitat protection biologist,

Ecosystem Planning Office

Fish and Wildlife Service

Edenton, N.C.

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