Ah, Ted. I think of him as the Emily Litella of conspiracy theorists.
Remember Emily? She was one of Gilda Radner's characters on SNL way back. She would misunderstand something she'd heard and go on a big verbal tear
about "Youth in Asia" or "the war on canker". One of my favorites was her rant about the "deaf penalty". At the end someone would tell her that
she'd misheard, at which point she'd say "Never mind".
Ted's got an understanding problem like Emily. At one point, he decided that all metal detectors were, in fact, X-ray machines that were killing us
all with their deadly radiation. No doubt a plot to sterilize us. Obviously, ol' Ted didn't understand how something other than an X-ray machine
could FIND metal. So, that's what it had to be. "Never mind."
On his website, he's had this topic up for years about time running at different rates here and there on Earth. That got started when someone noticed
that all their clocks were off at the house...it MUST be a quantum time leap! My God! Of course, it was a lot more prosaic...Ted didn't understand
that both analog and digital clocks powered by an AC line socket (even some that say they're quartz and have backup batteries) mostly use the AC
frequency for a time reference. That frequency is supposed to be tightly regulated at 60Hz for just that reason...but if your local grid goes off the
national grid for a while, they often drift. That happened in the area where these "quantum time leaps" were noticed, and it happens here and there
pretty frequently. If your local grid is running separately for a while, it can build up, five, maybe ten minutes of error over a few days. Ted
doesn't know how the digital clock on your VCR works though...never mind!
Here's Ted again, spouting off stuff he doesn't really understand all that well.
I'll assume it's rather obvious to you that if national ID cards come out, they won't have batteries in them. Or that you'd change them out
regularly if they did. So I think we can safely cross out the possibility that national ID cards with an RFID chip in them could possibly transmit
constantly on their own. That takes power, you don't have any, end of issue.
Most RFID parts, except for some specialty applications, run from the interrogator power. That is, the reader emits enough radio energy, in the case
of E-field tags, or enough of an AC magnetic field, in the case of H-field tags, that the part can run itself from the minute amount of power that it
can intercept. The class of parts that do this are called passive RFID tags.
E-field parts are generally pretty limited. They can't get a lot of power out of the incident RF, so they are generally slow, and only return serial
numbers. You don't have a lot of power to play around with on E-field tags. E-field tags can be read at a short distance, depending on the
interrogator power and frequency you can get up to 10 meters or so, but the farther away you get the "less intelligent" the tag can be due to there
being less and less power to run from as you move away from the interrogator. The power drops as the square of the distance.
H-field parts can have more intelligence but have greater distance restrictions. At close ranges you can get enougn power from the interrogator to run
a fairly competent microprocessor. That's how the "no swipe" credit cards and the E-passport work. Most likely, that's how an ID part with enough
memory and security to be worth using is going to work as well. H-fields (or near fields) aren't really "radio" in the sense that they propagate
like radio. It's more like you sliced a transformer in two, with one half on the ID card and the other in the interrogator. It's what they call a
reactive component. Outside what we call the "lambda wall", the near field components fall away to nothing as the fields that the interrogator is
putting out become full-fledged radio waves and radiate away, "detached" from the interrogator's antenna.
This reactive power/lambda wall combo puts an unavoidable limit on how far away you can interrogate an H-field part like an implant, (all implants are
H-field) or the parts on an e-passport. That's because the reactive power components between two air-coupled coils (that's what you have) falls of
as the SIXTH POWER OF THE DISTANCE. Much past a meter, the interrogator has to belch out Amps of excitation to get a few milliAmps of power at the
card, and at 2 meters, you'd need a bank of car batteries.
From a satellite, all the power generated on Earth couldn't turn that card on.
The other half, the near-field boundary, or "lambda wall" is another insuperable barrier. H-field cards communicate to the interrogator by throwing
a load on and off of the interrogator's excitation coils. That can only be sensed by the interrogator if the reactive field is still coupled to it,
and that ceases past the lambda wall. Even if you had the tag powered with its own battery so that the operating power wasn't an issue, the
interrogator won't get any signal back past about 3.5 meters for a 13.56MHz tag such at the ones in an E-passport, because the fields beyond that
distance don't return to the interrogator.
So, Ted's off in many ways:
1) such cards don't have power built-in and thus can't "transmit all the time"
2) RFID normally depends on power from the reader device, either by radio wave (e-field) or magnetic wave (H-field). Both are terribly inefficient,
with radio falling off as the square of the distance and reactive h-fields as the sixth power of the distance. No satellite could possible interrogate
ground RFID tags because it could not power them.
3) the story about the printer part is crap. Ever installed your own home satellite TV? Ever used a GPS? Can you just pitch one out on the deck and
have it work? No? Can you put one inside the house and have it work well? I didn't think so.
There's not a lot of signal coming DOWN from a satellite...even LEO sats are pretty far away and the satellite doesn't have a lot of power to spare.
So the idea that you can design an integrated circuit that just happens to fit a design that's already been done, but can magically also use the
traces on the design as receiving and transmit antennas is just bogus. Chip design for a complex chip like a microprocessor doesn't happen overnight,
the idea that you could just push a button and magically add in a satellite transmitter and receiver is nuts. Not the least of the problems is that it
would take forever to do, and the processes for analog IC's are not the same as those for digital. That's why you see the power amp and receiver
parts separated from the digital stuff in most RF designs, even where the space is at a premium like a cell phone. Not only that, any such design will
have to have the usual external bits like tank circuits and SAW filters. The idea that you could just use address lines or something for your transmit
and receive antennae is something only Ted would come up with. Yeah, Ted boy, I'd like to see your guys able to pull the downlink from the satellite
out of the ground-bounce mush on a micro using the front panel LED pin.
If it was a BIG printer with some room to move around inside, you MIGHT be able to install a sat phone knockoff or something, at least that way you
could optimally design it. But a lot of THEM won't work inside all that well, at least mine won't.
A better, more plausible story would have been for your fictitious agency to have embedded a GSM bug in the printer. That's easy enough to do and
tough to spot, and we DO use those, all the time.
So this part of Ted's story: urban legends of the uninformed. Call me for a better story next time.
4) "The rule of thumb has been the military advances 44 years, for every year of civilian technology."
Pure and utter bollocks. Ok. Let's think about that. Since 1950, the military has advanced 2500 years. Puh-leaze. This is one of those magic
"planetary" figures...it's right from Uranus.
What I think he MAY have meant was that there was a 44 year offset, but even that is not right. In 1960, the big deal was still those stacked hybrids.
Those were pretty cool, I have one from a missile somewhere in my keepsake pile. It's a little ice-cube sized stack of wafers with some sort of parts
on, all gooped up with red resin of some sort, and it has pins that run from top to bottom through the stack like girders in a little skyscraper.
It's pretty cool even now, but it's not an integrated circuit by any means. In the mid '60's they did swap over to the first IC's in military
equipment, but it was RTL or DTL stuff, really basic like a pair of gates or one flip-flop. "High density, high pin count microchips" would have
been nice. I've seen some of the designs from this era and while they're marvels of ingenuity given the constraints they had, it ain't a Pentium.
These guys were designing nuclear missile guidance packages using processors that had serial ALU's for God's sake, it could only do one bit at a
time of logic or math operations.
Some of the coolest stuff I've worked on was really classified and I saw the "secret bits" of it hit the COTS market about 15 years after the
original design was implemented. It's still new, and some of it didn't make it to the civilian implementation, but I've seen writeups and photos
that were quite accurate. 15 years is a lot faster than 44, and from my experience, that's about right. Somewhere between 10 and 15 years,
'someone' in the civilian world will 'discover' the technology. In this case, a company in Israel 'invented' the module we did. Hell, they even
'invented' the plastic molds we were using, they've still got the same part marks and sprues.
Ted talks a good game, but I've rarely seen anything he has to say that is totally accurate, and a lot of it is just Emily Litella spew. Just say
"never mind!", Ted.
[edit on 3-2-2007 by Tom Bedlam]