Time Travel Logs

1954 Part 4

Chapter 4.

Colonel James said, “We have our new priorities from our superiors. They are not too interested in the debates about the source of your information, they want things that they can build in the next few years, starting with your camera-telephone-computer device. They’ll listen to your policy recommendations, and definitely want to hear about them, but they want technology and science that they can use now, not in 50 years.”

Bob Thomas considered his options and said, “I’ll tell you my concerns, and what I’ve been holding back. In short, I don’t trust everyone in the CIA and National Security leadership, and goes right back to my first concern about not causing a nuclear war due to my interference. I think I would trust Allen Dulles, John Foster Dulles and President Eisenhower and I would like the chance to make my case to them directly. I’ll tell you my concerns about Curtis Lemay, the CIA in general, Richard Nixon, FBI chief Hoover, and whoever else I can think of.

As for airplanes, I didn’t hold back anything about technology, only about the U-2 that got shot down, because I don’t want to get that poor pilot in trouble. He was supposed to kill himself with a poisoned blade built into a coin, but didn’t, and then only narrowly was able to prevent a local kid from playing with the coin. You really shouldn’t expect that of our pilots.”

Colonel James said, “You said that in the next 30 or 40 years, every year it is a roll of the dice whether some radar malfunction or pissing match over a sugercane island caused a thousand missiles to land on our cities. I don’t even think we have a thousand cities. You are going to help us fix this. Like you said, you can’t count on the dumb luck that prevailed in your history from repeating, after you already interfered just by arriving with your phone from the future.”

Professor Robertson told Bob Thomas, “We can get you a meeting as you said, with President Eisenhower, Allen Dulles, and John Foster Dulles, and without the people you don’t want there. Before they’ll agree to that, they want to see some progress in technology, in particular with your cell phone. If you can explain it well enough, that we can start to understand how to build one, they’ll be more than willing to listen to your policy recommendations. It will help dispel doubts about your story.”

Bob Thomas said, “I’ll help you with the cell phone, I understand that better than 1950’s aircraft technology. That pocket sized device contains a cellular telephone, a digital camera, an alarm clock, a music playing device, an address book, and a computer, including a color liquid crystal display, a keyboard, flash memory, and a rechargeable battery.

For the battery, I’d have to look at the label to know what type it is. Probably not a Nickle Cadmium, since those require fully discharging and charging to preserve battery life. It might be a nickel-metal hydride. It could be a Lithium Ion, but those are a little more expensive and this wasn’t an expensive cell phone. The battery can be recharged daily for 1 to 3 years before any expectation of it wearing out, and will probably last even longer. I don’t know more about batteries.

The keyboard is probably the simplest part, but even that has some refinements in debouncing technology. Any button will cause a series of connections followed by bounces and not just one state transition. Circuitry is setup to have the computer see just the button press, and not the bounces. The computer can be setup to either look at each button, to see if it is pressed every small fraction of a second, or more likely, to have an interrupt circuit, that takes the computer temporarily away from the program it was running, and run a new program to deal with the interrupt. Interrupts would be button presses, a phone call coming in, or a low battery warning.

The camera has an image sensor. I don’t know the details of how it works, except some read a row at a time, and some read the whole image at once. This one has about 300,000 color pixels, each with many levels of brightness for red, green, and blue. This is probably better than the camera you are going to put on the U-2 plane. I know you have Edward Land working on that, I think he could look at this camera and figure out how it works. There was probably no person better at understanding color imaging than him in the late 20th century.

Flash memory contains NOR, not or, or NAND, not and, gates. They can be used at least 10,000 times before wearing out. When being read, it is similar to an array of transistors. Being written to is the difficult part, and involves somehow trapping electrons. There is something called a control gate and floating gate for each bit, but that is about all I know.

The Liquid Crystal display has two polarized filters for each pixel. An electric current applied to a pixel twists the second filter to block light through it. There is an backplane light that either shines through or is blocked for each pixel. A color screen has an additional filter of red, green, or blue for each pixel. That screen probably has about 60,000 full pixels, each with 3 color sub-pixels.”

Bob Thomas continued about the cell phone: “The computer is probably not that different from IBM’s latest computers. There is a central processing unit (CPU) that executes instruction from a part of memory, with the ability to either run the instruction at the next location, branch to a new location or call a routine. Calling a routine saves its state in a part of memory called the stack, resembling the way plates are stacked, and goes to a new location, until it runs the return instruction, then it retrieves its state, except for changes made by the routine, and continues. The working memory is a fast access random access memory that requires continuous power to keep its memory. The program resides in flash memory or other read-only memory.

The main difference between late 1950’s transistor computers and this one, is that the transistors are printed on tiny silicon chips using a process similar to photo reduction. Once they started making elements in the 100 nanometer range, something changed, but before that the process was simpler.

The first microprocessor was around 1971. The ones about 1978 with 16 bits of addressing and running 2 million instructions per second, come close to be able to do what this phone does. Those had 3 micron parts, the earlier ones had 6 micron parts.

The packaging of the microprocessor is an integrated circuit. I think Siemens already has a patent from around 1949 for the basic idea, maybe with 5 transistors. The phone microprocessor probably has millions of transistors.
Texas Instruments and Fairchild will be coming up with the idea that works by 1961 or so. After that, there is no one breakthrough that gets to 2008 chips, it is continuous research and development that double the number of transistors every 18 months without increasing much the cost per chip or power consumption. The smaller part sizes help with that. The research and development for each new improvement is enormously expensive, the fabrication facility for each new generation is also increasingly enormously expensive. After that, the chips themselves are almost as cheap to make as the sand they are made from.

The cell phone part of it, works with a network of antennas throughout cities and roadways, broadcasting with only 1 or 2 watts. When you turn on the phone it sends a very short broadcast with digital information containing its id number. The computer at the cellular antenna notifies the home switchboard for that phone that it is in contact with it. To make a call from the phone, the user types in the number, then presses the phone call button, the phone sends a short broadcast with its own id and number being called, the cell site sends back what channel to use, or if all channels are in use something like a busy signal. Then the phone works like a radio over that channel, or later phones like this one, digitally encode the sound and transmit that instead. The cell site connects to a land line phone line and makes the phone call.

If someone wants to call the cell phone, they call its switchboard, which has been notified which cell tower is in contact with it, and then the cell tower sends a digital message to the phone, and if the call is answered, it is broadcast over a channel assigned for the call. If it is not answered, the caller can leave a voice mail message, which a is a recording. The phone gets a digital message that there is a message available, and the phone can be connected to that message which is transmitted to it. There can also be text messages sent by typing into the keyboard the message and recipient, then a short digital transmission is made. A photograph can also be transmitted digitally, breaking down the pixels into a long series of 1’s and 0’s.”

The next day, Professor Robertson said, “That was a good overview on the cell phone. I’m going to pass a lot of questions from the phone team to you, and also the engineering teams trying to see what they can build. Just so you know, they have not been told the source of the device, except to say that it is a disinformation plan combined with some extraordinary technology. So, they should ignore all the “Made in China” signs they have found and the dates shown in your recent calls list, and just try to figure out the technology. We’re letting them speculate whether it is alien tech, or some super advanced Chinese technology. Also, to answer the one question you had about your own phone, the battery is labeled “Lithium Ion”. It also says “Do Not Disassemble”. Do you know why it says that?”

Thomas answered, “It can hold a lot of energy.”

Professor Robertson said, “900 milliAmp-Hours at 3.7 Volts according to its label.”

Thomas said, “On rare occasions, they can catch fire, or even explode.”

Professor Robertson replied, “We’re working on getting the meeting you asked for. The cell phone brings up the question about China, the fact that what you indicated was an advanced device for its time, the battery at the very least, was made in China, and labeled for English speakers is not what one would have predicted for 2008 based on current trends. How did that come to be?”

Thomas said, “It gets worse before it gets better. Right now, China is doing a collectivization program as disastrous as the Soviet one of 1931 or so. Then, for some reason they’ll decide that sparrows are eating too much of their crop, so they’ll send the peasants out to kill all the sparrows, and as a result, they’ll have a locust invasion.

Then they’ll have the cynical 1000 flowers campaign. They’ll tell their people that they want constructive feedback and criticism on how things are running, especially agriculture. They’ll carefully note who is critical, then a little later arrest them. All this is just the next 5 years.

Then, they get to the Great Leap Forward. This is to develop agriculture and industry, in particular grain and steel production. Every village had to have a little steel furnace, and much of the fuel came from people’s doors and furniture, and the scrap metal to make the steel came from their pots and pans. On top of all that, the steel itself was usually low quality.
In some cases, harvests were left to rot in the fields, as the peasants were required to tend to the steel furnaces.

They lie about food harvests, both to each other, and the outside world. Everyone claims huge harvests, and around 30 million Chinese die, mostly in the years 1956 to 1959. Around 1961 they came to their senses and allowed normal farming, and imported some grain.

Mao’s role diminished after this disaster. However in 1966 he found another disastrous way to be in charge again. He started the Cultural Revolution. He encouraged young people to rebel against their elders, and purify the revolution. Everyone had to worship Mao. People were moved around alot, people from cities sent to work in the fields.

This went on until 1976, when first Zhou En Lai died, then Mao Ze Dung. Note that the Latin spelling of Chinese changed. The new way is called Pinyin.

After Mao’s death, his wife and 3 others, called the Gang of Four tried to hold onto power. They were overthrown by Deng Xio Ping, called something like Teng Hsiao Ping with today’s spelling. He was a reliable henchman for Mao in the 1950’s disasters, then he was one of the ones who pushed him out of actual power in the early 1960’s, then he was assigned menial work during the Cultural Revolution, then he was rehabilitated by Zhou En Lai and Mao just before their deaths, then he overthrew Mao’s wife and took firm control by 1977 or 1978.

Then he made China capitalist. Formally, still Communist, even in 2008, but in reality capitalist. They became very successful. With free trade with the US, most or much of the manufactured goods in the US are made in China by the 2000’s. There is starting to be a backlash in the US, but it hasn’t changed the trade balance yet in 2008.”

Professor Robertson relayed some questions from the cell phone reverse engineering group. “How is the board put together. It has a bunch of rectangular shapes, I guess integrated circuits from what you described and what looks like printed wiring. How do we take it apart without destroying it?”

Bob Thomas said, “First you should understand how the earlier versions worked, those had chips encased in protective material, with pins sticking out. Those pins were fitted into holes in a board, with wiring printed on the underside, top side or both sides of the boards, connecting chips, resistors, capacitors, diodes and other separate components. By the time they refined everything to get the last millimeter, human labor minute of assembly time, and fraction of a cent in material cost out of it, it looks like what you see now.

It is called surface mount. Instead of long pins sticking out of the chips, the integrated circuits, there is a grid of short wires. The board itself has a matching grid of contacts with little drops of solder and maybe adhesive between them. They are just introducing lead-free solder, so the phone might have it. To sell in Europe you need that, and they try to make just one design for the world market, to make mass production more efficient.

A machine precisely applies the solder and adhesive and another machine picks up the chip and places it precisely in place. Sometime people do that instead. The board is heated a little, letting the adhesive work, then gradually heated up more to melt all the solder. Then a cleaning involving solvents is done to remove any stray bits of solder in the wrong place.

When all the parts are in place, they put an assembled board in a test machine to test it out. Then it is assembled into the actual device it will be a part of.

Removing it would probably involve heat and solvents, but not too much heat or heat applied too long to damage the components. As for the chips themselves,

The printed circuit board itself is simple, conductive wiring over a non-conductive surface, using photolithography. You can easily see where the wires go with a microscope.

The chip itself has a protective layer, and then it might have more than one circuit layers. Removing it is a very delicate operation, since the wiring goes right through the protective layer, and I think the protective layer is bonded to the layer below it.

Once you get it open, you would need to use a microscope to see the circuitry. However, an optical microscope probably won’t resolve the detail. You’ll need an electron microscope, which I think has already been invented.

Note that while it possible to take a chip off and put it back and still have the device work, it probably isn’t possible to break open a chip and have it work again.”

The next day, Professor Robertson said, “You had requested a meeting with President Eisenhower, Allen Dulles, John Foster Dulles and to exclude Curtis Lemay, the CIA in general, Richard Nixon, and J Edgar Hoover, and unspecified others. Can you explain why?”

Bob Thomas said, “Part of the reason is the same reason I don’t want to get into details here, I don’t believe that the chain of command is complete, and I want those three at the top of the chain to hear what I say directly.

The simplest case is Curtis Lemay, and I can answer about him. He is an extremely talented leader of the Strategic Air Command. He has put together a professional organization that performs admirably. He instituted security in depth, including using Tiger Teams to test security, that far exceeds the type of security we have in the 2000’s decade. He gets people to think on their feet and use common sense, while in later decades people rely more on a fixed rulebook, which doesn’t work well against the type of creative enemies we tend to get then.

Now, why don’t I trust him? He has shown a desire for preventative nuclear war. Since that type of war didn’t happen in my history, I don’t want to be personally responsible for one starting. I read reports about him saying that if he ever felt the situation called for it, he would unilaterally launch the bombers. I have heard other people who know him say that he would never do anything like that. The scenario was not one of a surprise nuclear attack on DC. There are clear lines of command and procedures you probably already have for that. You even have, or will have, a duplicate Congress building under the Greenbrier resort. I’m talking about situations where he doesn’t think the President is acting as needed.

As an aside, one of the scenarios to be planned for is the Soviet Embassy having a nuclear weapon. President Kennedy used to mention that as an aside to people, but there is no evidence it was true.

The other incident, is during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Curtis Lemay advised bombing Cuba, even though his own estimate was that he could destroy 90% of the missiles. One of the ways Kennedy got Khrushchev to back down was have the Soviet ambassador told that he was losing control over his generals and wouldn’t be able to stop a war from starting. Khrushchev believed this, since he thought that a President so young wouldn’t be able to command respect from older generals. The history I read about this, didn’t really rule out the threat being true, and the general being Curtis Lemay.”

Professor Robertson said, “I’ll pass along the reasons for your request. What happens to the Soviets?”

Bob Thomas said, “At present, Khrushchev is in charge. Whether Malenkov or Bukharin have any formal leadership, Khrushchev is the one in actual control. In February 1956, at the Party Congress, he gives a secret speech, denouncing Stalin, especially his purges and unpreparedness for World War Two. He fends off challenges to his power from Malenkov and Molotov, then later Bukharin. General Zhukov supports him, but then he removes him as being a threat to him.

He doesn’t arrest anyone he removes, except for Beria who is killed in 1953, but makes them retire, or assigns them some low-level non-political position. When he is removed by Brezhnev in 1964, he is also allowed to retire.

Khrushchev is a Communist, and wants to make Communism succeed without everyday brutality. When Hungary revolts in 1956 he is perfectly willing to use brutality to bring them back under the fold. Khrushchev seems to want peaceful coexistence without warfare between the between spheres of influence. In 1960, or maybe 1959, he and President Eisenhower seem close to some sort of an agreement, when a U-2 overflight is shot down over Sverdlovsk, canceling the meeting. Then there are clashes over Cuba, then he is removed.

Brezhnev begins a period of stagnation, which ultimately ends in the collapse of communism in 1991. He fights the Cold War relentlessly, gaining territory in Africa and Central America, and keeping a missile superiority over the US. In the early 1980’s, there are two elderly leaders how each last about a year in office before dieing of natural causes, then Gorbachev who tries to reform Communism. He unleashes free speech and elections of Republic leaders. Then there is a hard-line coup against him in August 1991, then the elected leader of Russia withdraws from the Soviet Union with army backing, then there are 15 independent states each in a state of economic collapse.

In the 1990’s, the best way to describe Russia is an organized crime state with seeming free enterprise all under the control of mobsters. Then a new leader in 2000 who cleans things up while wielding dictatorial power, then an oil price rise leading to their economic turnaround, then a Russia that is essentially an enemy of the US again, but no longer communist.”

Professor Robertson asked, “Does anything in the newspapers and magazines bring something to mind?”

Bob Thomas said, “The Salk Vaccine. There was something about a monkey virus in many of the vaccine doses that caused tumors later.

Another is Algeria. France is going to be in a world of hurt soon, just like in Vietnam. I don’t know what to say, they tried to win that war and lost, but it took many years.

I see the Domino Theory speech has already been made. That is going to justify the Vietnam War after non-military aid doesn’t work over then next decade.

The only Dominoes that fell were Laos and Cambodia. Cambodia probably could have limped along with a leftist, but not communist government of Prince Sihanouk. I think he is in and out of power, but always important there. The Viet-Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese army use Cambodia as a sanctuary to reach South Vietnam, the US tried interdicting by air, dropping, some say, more bomb tonnage than used by the US in World War Two, but it doesn’t work. Then in 1970, the US does a brief invasion. when the Communists finally take over in 1975, they are so radicalized that they move everyone out of the cities and kill 1 to 2 million people, especially anyone educated.”

Colonel James said, “You have talked about U-2 airplanes, what do you know about reconnaissance?”

Bob Thomas said, “The U-2 is your mainstay for several years. It becomes simple to shoot down at the end of the 1950’s. After that, the mainstay is satellites. I think the early ones were in the late 1950’s and dropped a film bundle right from space, to be picked up by an aircraft while falling. I have no idea how they solved the heating problem during atmosphere reentry. The spacecraft use a metal or ceramic heat shield, and the early ones would simply flame off during reentry with a sufficient thickness to last the entire reentry, and then the parachutes would deploy. The US always used water landings, and the Soviets landed on land.”

“Edward, or Edwin or something like that Land develops your first optics for the U-2, and everything is film based until digital photography gets better. Infrared is important, not just visible spectrum. I think fairly early on you use both planes and spacecraft to listen into radio communication. You also directly tap undersea cables very close to the Soviet Union.”

Story: 1954: Part 5


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