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The Magic Box Hoax

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the one-born-every-minute dept.

News 481

Rasvar writes "Here is an interesting article from The Florida Times-Union about a high tech hoax that managed to pull in the likes of Blockbuster Video, US West, Ted Turner, Sen Orrin Hatch and numerous others. I actually attended one of the "demonstrations" of this device years back. I came away cynical becuase of the way he presented stuff. Sometimes it is good to be a cynic. This is a very good article on an impressive high tech scam."

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481 comments

Haha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466294)

Haha..

"Madison Priest shows a patent certificate issued by the U.S. government for his magic box technology."

alll right (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466307)

florida's always in the news...

Who's to blame? (2, Informative)

Devil's BSD (562630) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466308)

Madison Priest was a big con-artist, true, but if Ted Turner and the rest did their research, wouldn't they have realized that there are physical limitations to a POTS line's bandwidth?

Re:Who's to blame? (1)

trezor (555230) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466330)

I thought this was supposed to common knowledge to engineers? So incompetent people is finally being punished :)

Re:Who's to blame? (4, Insightful)

yintercept (517362) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466465)

I thought this [the bandwidth of the telephone lines] was supposed to common knowledge to engineers

Yes, it is common knowledge. About 20 years ago it was 1200 BAUD, then it changed to 2400BAUD. It stuck at 9600BAUD for a long time, and now we run DSL at something 500K BPS. Yes, it is common knowledge...Don't let the fact that "common knowledge" was wrong in the past delude you into thinking that common knowledge today might be incorrect.

Re:Who's to blame? (4, Informative)

systemapex (118750) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466335)

This was the pre-DSL era. Everybody and their brother was supposed to be searching for this very thing - broadband-type bandwidth over standard old telephone lines. These investors wanted to believe in this magic box. When people actually want to believe in something, it becomes orders of magnitude easier to convince them of it. Even so, this guy went to great lengths to convince them. I'm sure there are other, smaller investors that were swindled from shadier, less-convincing con-men using this very same theme.

Re:Who's to blame? (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466343)

You fool! Didn't you read the article? They used Zero-point energy to increase the bandwidth of a regular phone line far beyond normal.

You know, like gamma rays can turn someone into "The Hulk".

I thought the bit about the VCR was hilarious. I have no sympathy for these companies that lost money on the deal. I hope people got fired over this.

They're not the only ones who haven't researched (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466363)

The physical limitations on bandwidth for a piece of copper (as with almost every other material used in telecom) are staggeringly huge. The practical limits on bandwidth are from what's hooked onto the ends of the piece of copper.

Wanting to believe (4, Interesting)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466376)

wouldn't they have realized that there are physical limitations to a POTS line's bandwidth?

I thought that the POTS line bandwidth was to some degree limited by other things like filtering.

Otherwise things like DSL wouldn't really work.

(off on a tangent) I recall many years (1970s?) ago how they did (and maybe still do) broadcasts in Boston of Boston Symphony concerts at TangleWood in the Berkshires, over 100 mile away. They had recordings of the original source, they had the signal at the end of the phone line, and they knew what the difference was. They merely amplified the signal at the source end to compensate for the losses, making sure to not clip the signals. Result at the end in Boston was a signal completely acceptable for FM Stereo broadcasts.

So I can see if you are not completely expert in the technology, being able to make up your own examples, and talking yourself into believing that Certain Limitations had been exceeded.

Heck, Look at the history of the dialup modem, going from teletype speeds to 56k, far exceeding original expectations.

Re:Wanting to believe (5, Informative)

norton_I (64015) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466425)

POTS is, among other things, limited by the resoultion of the ADC at the telco. Since you telephone signal goes into a 64 kbps digital channel there, you cannot get any more than 64 kbps out of the analog end. DSL requires the telco to install new hardware that splits the high frequency and low freqency components, sends one to the phone connection and one to the DSL hardware.

Even so, noise, loss, and crosstalk are all problems for DSL causing it to be limited range, especially for the high bandwidth versions. In addition, equipment installed to prevent ground loops and improve the quality of audio freqnecy transmission, especially in older or long distance phone runs wasn't designed to pass high frequency and can wreak havoc on DSL. None of these problems have to do with the wire itself, though. Copper has plenty of bandwidth, the purpose of coax and so forth is to decrease losses and interference.

But it sounds like this guy was claiming to jam several megabits of data through the 64 kbit phone switch, which is obviously impossible.

Re:Wanting to believe (3, Funny)

Slash Veteran (561542) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466533)

But it sounds like this guy was claiming to jam several megabits of data through the 64 kbit phone switch, which is obviously impossible

You obviously missed the fact that he was using zero point energy combined with low energy physics. These two symbiotic technologies use the 64 kbit switch as an multiplying amplifier, effectively increasing available bandwidth by a factor of 65536. That converts an ordinary DSL line from 1.5Mbps to 98.3Tbps.

Re:Wanting to believe (2)

cananian (73735) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466497)

The tanglewood "phone line" is most likely a "dry copper pair" (see Cringely's pulpit [pbs.org] ) with no phone-company filtering done. This is just 100 miles of copper wire connecting the Berkshires to Boston. With enough amplification, etc, I'm sure radio-quality analog audio transmission is perfectly possible.

That's very different from transmitting the signal over a "POTS line" or a phone call, though.

Re:Who's to blame? (1)

Slash Veteran (561542) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466490)

A fool and his money...

Nothing new here, either from a technology standpoint, or in the fleecing of investors.

More like a Hispanic BOX (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466317)

This piece of equipment he advertised sounds like something out of an ancient latino story. The people have made up all sorts of fake stories to increase their average capital income among white patrons. This leads to higher wages for them, and even higher sales tax for whites. Just another scheme by the hispanics to put down their former white brethren.

Trusting a Priest? (1, Funny)

JZ_Tonka (570336) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466321)

With all the stuff going on in the Catholic Church, and now this to top it off, how is ANYONE expected to ever trust a Priest again?

Re:Trusting a Priest? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466384)

Look at his picture [jacksonville.com] and indeed he does look like someone about to rape little developing boys and girls who might have ideas of their own. These days anyone can apply and get a patent. Just like a college degree.

Be afraid...

Re:Trusting a Priest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466413)

With all the stuff going on in the Catholic Church

The sad thing is that all that stuff has been known for years and years. I knew years ago that the church was "solving" the problem by moving the priests around, and indeed, it's been an ongoing joke since at least 1997/1998 in "atheist groups".

But I guess one should be glad that it is common knowledge now, finally. Better late than never, eh?

Re:Trusting a Priest? (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466466)

Wow, you mean that we shouldn't trust people because people in the same profession committed horrible crimes? Wow!

That does it. I can no longer trust police officers, firemen, doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, stock market folk, bankers, store managers, or anyone else. They've all got members who've committed felonies!

No, no, no need for justice for them. Their professions obviously predispose them towards criminal behavior. Let's just assume that they're all crooks--the ones who aren't are just biding their time.

I mean, heck, every priest secretly wants to coodle a young boy. And all that talk about "forgivenenss" that they've been going on about for 2,000 years really is just PR, and they don't REALLY believe that.

... or maybe you're a +5 troll, and we should think rationally about who we trust in all manners, and not make sweeping generalizations about professions who can only function if they are trusted?

Re:Trusting a Priest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466505)

Then again, none of the professions you mention have St. Augustine to look back at as a model of sexual maturity.

This shit is just 2,000 years' worth of chickens coming home to roost. Don't look up.

Re:Trusting a Priest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466534)

As in most scandals these days, it's not the original crime that's causing all of the hubbub as much as the coverup. In this case, more than just a handful of these people knew what was going on over the years, and few if any took any action to change things. That is why the entire organization has lost a big chunk of its credibility, even if there were only a small number of actual offenders.

Re:Trusting a Priest? (2, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466541)

  • all that talk about "forgivenenss" that [priests have] been going on about for 2,000 years really is just PR

Given that you say 2,000 years, I assume you're talking about the new fangled cult of Christianity. In that case, the story is "Hey! Did you hear about Original Sin? You're burning in hell, buddy. But wait! We've also got the solution! Forgiveness, at a surprisingly reasonable price."

Yeah, there are probably a few good priests, in the same way that there are probably a few good lawyers, good traffic cops, or (relevant to this story) a few good patent office clerks. But I really do believe that there are some professions where it's a good idea to keep the practitioners as far away from you as humanly possible. It's not right, but pragmatism rarely is. It's simply pragmatic.

Hmmm (1, Offtopic)

Devil's BSD (562630) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466326)

Say, doesn't that guy look kinda like CowboyNeal?

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466538)

cowboy neil, i dunno about that, but come to my website. you need it like a crackhead needs crack.

http://jake_blade.tripod.com

Here's a related link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466329)

I find this fascinating.

http://jacksonville.bizjournals.com/jacksonville /s tories/1999/03/15/story1.html

He's an Inventor(tm) (5, Funny)

dattaway (3088) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466331)

He received a patent on his black box [jacksonville.com] , so it must true and not a hoax, right?

Another reason why patents are worthless pieces of paper.

Re:He's an Inventor(tm) (1)

danamania (540950) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466345)

Not only that, y'all read about it on the internet. What more convincing do you need...

Re:He's an Inventor(tm) (2)

yintercept (517362) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466368)

Even if his invention was mumbo jumbo, having a patent could have put him in a position of extracting payments from real scientists who worked developed DSL and other ways to increase bandwidth for regular telephone lines. Makes you wonder how many patents are really just cons put on file.

Re:He's an Inventor(tm) (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466438)

Yes, in that picture, he is laughing at the US patent office... That's one thing he has in common with the slashdot readership.

Re:He's an Inventor(tm) (0, Troll)

linzeal (197905) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466509)

His magic box is a glory hole and he sticking his penius in it right now, look at that face.

Re:He's an Inventor(tm) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466556)

anyone else surprised that this was a white guy? When I first started reading it, I figured for sure this was a jiggaboo.

patent (5, Informative)

j09824 (572485) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466337)

You can find the patent here [uspto.gov] . It's completely bogus. Any patent examiner with a minimum background in electrical engineering should have thrown this out, and anybody investing millions of dollars in it should have had it checked out by someone who actually knows something about electrical engineering. This is really no different from the patent and investment follies of the Internet bubble.

Re:patent (2)

ciole (211179) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466367)

This is really no different from the patent and investment follies of the Internet bubble.

No kidding. It's just like emails that delete themselves, and all those companies with supposedly 'unbreakable' proprietary encryption. i remember when word of this guy first spread - i thought, he can magically compress video but he won't tell anyone how? Mmmhmm.

Charisma really has to be the secret ingredient. i not only couldn't have pulled this scam, i can't even fast-talk my way to extended deadlines.

Go on then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466419)

"It's completely bogus. Any patent examiner with a minimum background in electrical engineering should have thrown this out"

I think a detailed explanation of some points that make the patent so clearly bogus would be appreciated by many here, and might help shame the U.S. Patent Office into action.

( Just saying that the bandwidth of copper is only X isn't enough, I feel ).

Re:patent (1)

mfos.org (471768) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466428)

Except on the examination to become a patent clerk, they don't ask you if you know the difference between your ass and a hole in the ground.

Re:patent (1)

Slash Veteran (561542) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466503)

don't forget about perpetual motion machines and breakthrough compression algorithms that promise to compress random data. Snake oil.

I've learned about a better and cheaper connection (3, Funny)

pornaholic (242268) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466339)

I can move my data around at 100GB/s. Watch as I give you a live demonstration!

&ltemote&gtpicks up computer and throws it&lt/emote&gt

Did you see that? I'll sell you this system for a fraction of what it's worth, I just want society to benefit from it!

Decimated the speed limit? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466346)

The article says that his new invention would decimate the speed limit for data over ordinary phone lines. Why anyone would invest millions of dollars in reducing the already slow speed by %10 is beyond me, but I guess they were all crazy rich people.

You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Inigo Montoya

hmm (0, Flamebait)

happyslinky (545469) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466347)

Madison Priest's history is filled with people who call him a con artist, a geek who invented nothing more than a beautiful lie.

3 words: Gates, windows, security.

If it seems to good to be true... (1)

jred (111898) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466348)

It usually is. Suckers. I should've come up w/ this scam. I'm tired of being broke & having to work for a living...

Re:If it seems to good to be true... (2)

CheechBG (247105) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466390)

yeah, well, there is a pretty long statute of limitations on conspiracy, at least you don't have the looming threat of hard time in a federal "pound-me-in-the-ass" prison...

Uh... patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466349)

Madison Priest shows a patent certificate issued by the U.S. government for his magic box technology. Priest said the box could transmit data much faster than any existing system, and could do it through an ordinary household telephone line.

Uh.

If this guy has a patent certificate, can't any of us, you know, go down to the patent office and *read his patent*? I mean, that's the point of the patent office, you get a temporary monopoly on your innovation in exchange for which you have to tell EVERYONE exactly how it works.

I'm looking around the patent server [uspto.gov] trying to find anything with this guy's name on it, and i haven't found anything yet.. maybe i'm using this thing wrong? Don't you have to get the inventor name exactly right? What's this guy's middle initial?

Hilarious (as long as you weren't an investor) (1)

Mr Krinkle (112489) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466350)

It just goes to show how easy it is to scam people when they want to believe.
Think of all the things people are willing to buy into because they think it will make them tons of money. Now think of all the times this things turn out to be cons. You would think people would learn buy now to be a little more skeptical. I know I would never give my money to someone that "they overlooked Priest's demand -- his paranoia, even -- that no one so much as touch a keyboard."
Then again I did buy Ericsson stock. Oh well I guess I should practice what I preach.. Wait heres this company called Enron...

huh? (2, Insightful)

elchulopadre (466393) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466354)

Is it just me, or is the "it got destroyed in a car accident / plane crash / flood / lightning bolt from Zeus" excuse the grown-up version of "my dog ate my homework"?

Re:huh? (1)

sheean.nl (565364) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466426)

no, no, no, it'snt "my dog ate my homework" anymore, it's,

kid (and Linux-geek): "A PC-virus erased all my homework!!!!"
teacher: "OMG, wait a sec. Aren't you running Linux?"
kid (and Linux-geek): "ehm..."

just makes me think of how stupid people can be, like people are believing:

>"my prototype was destroyed in a plane-crash" "ehm"

Re:huh? (1)

sheean.nl (565364) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466436)

whoops, should have been:

just makes me think of how stupid people can be, like people are believing:

"my prototype was destroyed in a plane-crash"
"what plane crash?"
"ehm"

Technical infeasibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466365)

This is exactly like that Pixelon thing. Some guy claims to have an answer to an utterly unsolveable and technically infeasible problem. (Like getting fast speeds over dialup, and streaming full quality NTSC video over a 28.8 modem. Any competent techie would be skeptical of this.) Then they exploit a bunch of rich suckers who know nothing about said technology.

Bah (3, Interesting)

delta407 (518868) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466373)

I can transmit video in realtime over a standard phone line -- it's called DSL. Additionally, I can even stream video over a modem, 512x512 @ 30 FPS as listed in the patent (even though TVs aren't square).

How about solid black? I'm thinking a 9600 baud modem can do that, depending on the compression.

You'd think someone would have figured it out (1)

prof187 (235849) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466375)

With all of the tech-savvy people around, you'd figure that *someone* would have gotten suspicious and done some investigating of their own. I'm also surprised that when he failed to put out a physical prototype, the media companies didn't automatically pull out, figuring it was a hoax that he could put them out of business with this "magic box." If I were Priest, I'd be sure to watch my back as there are most likely some very disgruntled associates.

Re:You'd think someone would have figured it out (1)

bilbobuggins (535860) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466513)

With all of the tech-savvy people around

Apparently you don't work in management/investments...

Bad investments (1)

altinsel (54917) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466381)

I too have dumped many a dollar into entrepreneurs claiming to have a 'magic box'.

They usually delay on delivery of the goods... but I keep the faith alive. Sex is after all, the holy grail of geekdom.

If it is a scam, I concede it truly is a beautiful one.

"...and you ou will feel it, deep down in your pants." -Leon Phelps

Extrodinary claims require extrodinary proof.... (5, Informative)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466388)

If anyone shows you a "magic box" but won't let you touch it, change the setup of the demonstration, or suggest other ways to test it, RUN !

This is a classic bit of snake oil - "I have this wonderful thing, and you can get a piece of it, but DON'T GO BACK THERE!"

That otherwise intelligent people fell for this just goes to show how most of us don't always act logically all the time.

Besides - pushing video over CAT-3 isn't hard: you just need enough OOMPH to deal with the attenuation, which over a few feet is not so bad. I've seen little boxes you can buy that allow you to send a VCR's output to another room over 100 feet of little thin zip-cord - all they are is a balun (balanced to unbalanced transformer) that matches the 75 ohm output of the VCR to the wire.

It's pushing that same signal over MILES of cable while somebody else is pushing a different signal over a different pair of wires in the same bundle without interfering with each other that's the tricky bit. Solve that with enough signal to noise ratio to allow multi-megabit transmission, and you will be rich. You also will be violating half a dozen laws of physics, but....

Re:Extrodinary claims require extrodinary proof... (1)

wik (10258) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466486)

I always wondered what balun stood for. Thanks! We used to have them in the dorms at CMU (I hope they have removed 'em all by now and replaced then with a jack that doesn't look like it belongs in an evil scientist's lab). People said they could support 100mbit ethernet over those *ancient* cables, though I never saw it myself.

For those of you who think they can get really cheap ethernet cable with them, think again. The baluns and connectors (at least the IBM ones we used) weren't cheap.

Re:Extrodinary claims require extrodinary proof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466495)

You also will be violating half a dozen laws of physics, but....

...theres no jail time on that.

OH NO!! (1)

sarcast (515179) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466508)

You also will be violating half a dozen laws of physics, but....

Will the physics police arrest me?

Re:Extrodinary claims require extrodinary proof... (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466543)

"If anyone shows you a "magic box" but won't let you touch it, change the setup of the demonstration, or suggest other ways to test it, RUN !" should continue on to say "..run over and press every button imaginable and see waht happens!"

people believed this guy? (2, Insightful)

krs-one (470715) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466399)

"Priest, a 40-something ex-con who dropped out of high school in rural Citra, had devised his invention just a year or so earlier."

My respect for Intel just went down a notch for believing this guy who has a record like this.

-Vic

What the heck? (2)

Enonu (129798) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466406)

Blockbuster? Intel? Wouldn't these companies be rich enough to hire engineers and physicists who could tell you flat out that it's impossible?

So what's the real answer? Given a telephone wire and optimum conditions, what's the theoretical maxiumum speed that data can be transfered at?

Re:What the heck? (0, Troll)

SirRichardPumpaloaf (563323) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466460)

The Slashdot headline was totally misleading, as usual. Nowhere in the article does it say that Intel itself invested anything in this guy, they simply bought a company that had previously given him some money. I also don't see anything about Orrin Hatch being taken in, just that he met the guy once, and it was Ted Turner's son that was duped, not Ted himself. Slashdot, your one-stop shop for yellow journalism!

Re:What the heck? (2)

topham (32406) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466494)

Very few experts will say something is impossible. If they are truely experts they may have seen the impossible done repeatedly. Sure, they may be able to understand it after it is done, but people do come up with new things and most Experts acknowledge they don't know EVERYTHING about a subject.

That said, I still can't believe people fell for it.

Re:What the heck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466539)

It is back in highschool again. You often have the comley business people assume they are smart enough and they just did not put in the time(only a geek would do that). They can cut a deal and just leave the pesky details to the geeks. I have been told I get lost in all those "bit and bytes" when asked to do truely bone headed things and I am sure I am not alone. One of the DBAs came out of a meeting not too long ago laughing over someone's comment "We are not going to use SMTP to communicate over the internet because it is unrealiable; we will use Outlook". If it was even remotely feasable .... The big companies ignore technical advice from their own people all the time. They don't need to do the reseach don't you know? This really is nothing new.

Other scams (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466408)

This guy isn't the only one running a venture capital scam promising high tech payoffs.

Check out Betavoltaic [betavoltaic.com] This guy that is the CEO has a long history of pseudoscience, and some of his officers worked on "perpetual motion machines", all of which needed a DC power source to run.

Posting anonymously to avoid the wrath of that asshole that runs the place. He likes to sue people to quiet them down about his scam.

it was the aliens or the government (1)

Cool E (125442) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466412)

it was either the aliens or the government, so that made it disapear and look like a hoax so that we wouldn't know about it.

yep thats definitly it.

Charlatans Exist Because We Love Them (4, Insightful)

Chasuk (62477) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466416)

Sometimes it is good to be a cynic.

No, but sometimes it is good to be a skeptic. In fact, in my own experience, it is always good to be a skeptic.

The cynics I've known were convinced that all human behavior was motivated wholly by self-interest, which, even if it is true in an ultimate sense, is an attitude guaranteed to close your mind. The skeptics, on the other hand, merely insist that all claims be testable and repeatable: they doubt, but their doubt is healthy and reasonable, and leave them with a mind-set that I think of as structured incredulity.

If more people were skeptics, charlatans like John Edwards and James Van Praagh wouldn't be able to make a living, and this "Magic Box Hoax" could have never occurred.

Can't stand cynics (1)

mikosullivan (320993) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466520)

I can't stand cynics either. In my experience, cynics are people believe that
  1. The world sucks
  2. The world will always suck
  3. Any efforts to make the world better is naive and will only make things worse
In short, cynicism is a loser attitude disguising itself as enlightenment.

Skeptical, not Cynical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466420)

I think what they meant to say was that it would good to be skeptical, not cynical.

-Anonymous Howard

sounds like Lawrence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466440)

This sounds just like Larry, ex-CEO of a startup before the VCs forced him out of the CEO position, who took the VCs for $30M, which they later admitted was a mistake.

Ha ha! (1)

jjoyce (4103) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466447)

I find this story hilarious. Just a bunch of rich, stupid, assholes chasing each other with dollar signs in their eyes, only to be fooled by a fast-talking hillbilly. More power to him. He should move out of the country while he's still got their money.

Re:Ha ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466456)

I'm sure orbitz.com is interested in your viewpoints. They have been forwarded on.

Bad Metaphor (1)

aeloff (131226) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466458)

From the article:

Priest's invention would make those old phone lines faster than anything on the market, decimating the communications speed limit.


What a terrible mixing of metaphors! Save for the obvious contextual cues in the first part of the sentence, I would read the phrase as "reducing the communications bandwidth by some fraction".

A better choice would be "obliterating" or some similar word without a numerical connotation .

- one of the five English nit-picking /.'ers

Parallel case or same guy? (5, Interesting)

eagl (86459) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466459)

I was a spectator to a similiar case, where a guy calling himself Paul "Voss" Hinds was trying to get money to start a flight simulator game company. That story has a LOT of parallels.

He claims to be an Air Force Academy Graduate.
His AF records cannot be found by ANYONE, and he claims this is because of his involvement in secret projects.

He was out of sight for several months in 1997, and later claimed he was on death's door due to a scorpion sting under a fingernail.

He had a "fall guy" who he claimed ran off with the $10,000 he managed to get from investors.

He submitted as "proof" several SGI generated "screenshots", all of which used clearly typical demo features and openGL artifacts.

He claimed to own a P-51 Mustang and even submitted a doctored photo of a P-51 with his head cut-n-pasted into the cockpit and his name written under the canopy. The font for the canopy matched an Adobe Photoshop default.

He claimed to have shot down several Iraqi fighters in his F-16, yet no records of those shootdowns exist.

The list goes on and on, and this guy finally resurfaced using his handle "voss" in an online simulation, and he verbally attacks anyone who brings the scam up, challenging them to talk to his "astronaut general buddy". Strangely enough, this astronaut guy actually exists although I have not contacted him personally.

The parallels kept hitting me as I read the article, and I wonder if this was the same guy, or if (somehow) Paul Hinds had been set up by this same guy.

So typical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466469)

How often do busineeses ignore their own technical people? All the time at great expense I reckon. I am sure a lot of that happened here.

as they say on Car Talk: (2, Interesting)

KingPrad (518495) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466492)

the investors "made their decisions unhindered by the thought process". Sums it up I think.

Some things just don't change... (1)

Mulletproof (513805) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466496)

...And this kind of blind investing is what caused the dot.com fallout. "It works, really! Trust me!" At least somebody was smart enough to verify cold fusion and find it was a hoax withing a short persiod of time, but this is just plain stupidity on the companies part. Here's a good one: Require the inventor of Technology X to make the invention work at a site not of his choosing. If the inventor can't either do that, or let somebody at least look at the guts, somethings wrong... Jeez... A fool and their money...

his wife ruined it all (1)

acecccp (102351) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466499)

"The day after a critical fund-raising trip to woo major telecommunications firms in Chicago, court records show Linda Priest called one of Zekko's founding fathers.

It was all a hoax, she said. There was no invention. There was only The Revelation."
------
I guess this is just one great plan foiled by women ;P I wonder why she did it though.

Re:his wife ruined it all (2)

Tazzy531 (456079) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466532)

She was trying to cover her ass.. Her side of the story says that she was unaware of everything that's going on. Up until the Chicago event, she thought it was a legitimate invention but only realized it when you opend the computer and found a VCR. Now when all the investors start to press criminal charges on his husband, she could claim that she was not part of it and even reported it to the authorities...

My take is that she was involved from day one. I mean, if you're husband is running half a mile of cable across a river, you'd notice. You'd also notice if there were millions of dollars of unopened computer components. You'd also notice your husband very upset when these "floods, lightning, etc" destroyed the only working prototype.

Selling Yourself (5, Interesting)

Fished (574624) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466501)

For all those who are outraged that the scam took in so many (i.e. "Why didn't they get some competent people to recview it before investing), the answer is that <b>they did</b>. The article talks about the way that many scientists reviewed the invention, but were never quite able to say that the invention was impossible. On this basis, the investor's said "it appears to work. I'll take the risk and assume it does actually work."
<p>

Why didn't the scientists say that this was completely absurd? A lot of reasons. First, they are being paid to review the invention. If they say that the invention doesn't work and it does, then they are liable for the massive losses incurred by the investor for a failed opportunity. If they say it doesn't work and it does, they get sued by the inventor. So, what do they do? They hedge their bets. They say that "more study" is needed, etc. To business types, this sounds like they are just being nerdy and cautious. Since they leave the question open, the investor (who wants to believe) goes ahead and goes for it, figuring that the 5 million dollars invested (or whatever) could well turn into billions.
<p>
In some respects, the scientiastws have failed them by not emphasizing their near-certainty that the idea was nonsense. And the businessmen failed themselves by not bothering to learn that, when a scientist says "quite improbable", he means "impossible."

<p>

sounds like everyday life to me, and should to most geeks.

more proof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466514)

Rich people don't get that way with brains,
they get that way with luck. Dumb luck.

So many suckers, so little time... (4, Interesting)

Boulder Geek (137307) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466516)

Here's a story about a similar scam [thestandard.com] from the dot com era. This guy raised $20M, and spent $16M of that on a party in Las Vegas with entertainment provided by the Dixie Chicks and The Who.

Wow (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466518)

The most dumbfounding was at the Fort Gates Ferry, a ramshackle barge that crosses the St. Johns River near Welaka. Priest would often demonstrate the invention there, transmitting video from a computer on one side of the river to a partner on the other side. It seemed, the Zekko executives thought, an impossible test to fake.

Then they saw more than a half-mile of coaxial cable coiled on the dock.

"Madison had actually run co-ax under the St. Johns River there," Mons said.

Man, it might be hoax, but this dude worked HARD to keep the hoax alive. It makes you wonder how far he would get in life he put all this energy into something worthwhile.

I hate to admire someone who's basically a thief, but anyone who goes to that much trouble almost deserves to get away with it. :)

not Ted Turner (5, Informative)

ruck (156392) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466528)

According to the article, it was Teddy Turner, Ted Turner's son.

Here is the schematics, from the patent: (5, Funny)

3Suns (250606) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466529)

From the bottom of the patent:

+--------------+
| |
Data | YHBT | Data
=====+ YHL +=====
In | HAND | Out
| |
+--------------+

The Linux box hoax? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466540)

Is this like the linux box hoax

Where Does Honesty Get You? (5, Interesting)

idonotexist (450877) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466545)

This article pisses me off, why? This scammer has an expensive home, a few cars such as a Jaguar (ok, Jaguar sucks but it is arguably better than his Eclipse), boats, and a couple of planes --- oh, and he still has a bundle of cash.

I, or any number of us, could pull an evil-scheme like this off. But, for some reason we don't. For some reason we have ethics and values. And, for some reason, a guy like that has more money than he needs to live on. Obviously, the world is not fair.

It's a Hoax Hoax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3466547)

Priest finally got the thing working then Turner and Blockbuster paid him huge sums of money and told him to keep his trap shut. The hoax was made up to put an end to those meddling kids asking questions.

Rut Roh Raggy.

VCR? (2, Interesting)

eander315 (448340) | more than 11 years ago | (#3466557)

The investors were tricked using a VCR and lots of coax. I don't know about you, but investing hundreds of thousands of dollars (or even millions) without the chance to at least play quake over the super-fast "network" seems a little ignorant. Anyone who invested in this scam obviously let their greed get the better of them, and demonstrated that the rich are not always rich because they are extraordinarily smart.
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