Beginning on Anelace in This Corner of the Universe, I purposely went into a detailed explanation of how Stacy Vernay had her hands positioned over the ship’s mass driver weapons controls. She used both hands and even had different fingers on each hand performing separate tasks.

One intention was to give some gritty detail of the complications of gunnery in an effort to add some depth and realism to the gunnery procedure. It was also to create a realistic (and hopefully somewhat amusing) depiction of Human Factors Engineering and how people always seem to circumvent such things.

If you recall, when firing the mass driver, Vernay had her left pinky finger already pressed down on the mass driver fire button. However, the mass driver did not actually “fire” until Vernay activated the “command-accept-execute” button with her right hand.

What’s up with that?

Well, when thinking through the firing process, I tried to over-engineer the firing steps to ensure that accidental discharges of the weapon would be minimized/eliminated. Human Factors Engineering plays a role in stuff like this. For example, heavy press machinery can only be activated when the operator presses two buttons positioned opposite of each other, thus ensuring the operator’s hands are not physically under the press. Old commercial airplanes had two light bulbs underneath each panel light so it could light up even if one bulb burned out–believe it or not, that has caused commercial airline crashes before.

So, the finest Brevic Republic human factors engineers decided that the best way to eliminate an accidental shot was to double the number of buttons the gunner had to push to fire, to ensure a twitch of a single finger didn’t have catastrophic results. Foolproof, right?

Enter humans. In the field, such a process would easily be subverted (and was when you read how Vernay was manipulating the controls). Gunners across the navy would simply hold down one of the “fire” buttons rendering the entire safety precaution moot. I saw things like this quite a bit in my time in the military and I wanted to bring some of that experience to my novels.

It’s the little things that add realism and maybe a smile to a reader’s face when he makes a connection. Anyway, that was the birthing process for command-accept-execute.

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