In a stuffed apartment filled with hydrofluoric acid, oscilloscopes and a transistor curve tracer, Jeri Ellsworth carefully places a hand-cut silicon waver into an 1000 degree furnace. The ambient noise of police sirens can be heard in the background: "Ugh, the police are coming... So the instructions for the emulsitone dopant says let it dwell in the opening of the furnace for a bit to drive off any organics, and I can see that it's changing colour-" A unexpected knock at the door cuts her off.
Jeri Ellsworth works solemnly on her p-doped silicone wafer, purchased from eBay, in an effort to make a simple silicon wafer transistor from first principles. Using store-bought rust remover for the source of acid, and Aquafina as a crude source of de-ionized rinse water.
This is only the 100th try at making a functioning transistor for Jeri, and beside her on the desk lays a jar of full of failed attempts.
Most of the world doesn't pay much attention to Jeri or her work, but the meek will inherit the earth when judgement day begins on the 19th of January 2038 at 03:14:07 UTC. What kind of judgement day you ask? Oh, just the kind of judgement day that Jeri has been preparing for her entire life.
A Secret Hiding in Plain Sight
The un-trained observer would look at Jeri and see any ordinary technical enthusiast: Just another curious technical person who is interested in learning about how the world works. But for those who are keen enough to pay close attention, the evidence is clear that, almost from the beginning, Jeri's life has actually been one long covert training exercise to prepare her to lead the next generation of resistance fighters who will wage war against the robot armies of the future. The evidence for this is overwhelming, and it starts with her interest in magnetic core logic and memory:
In this video on magnetic core memory and logic, Jeri Ellsworth discusses how magnetic core memory works. Today, magnetic core memory is considered an ancient and obsolete relic of the first mainframe computers. Instead of using tiny semi-conductor features to store data, as most modern memory does, the data in magnetic core is stored in the magnetic field polarization of small iron cores, where one bit of information is stored in each of these ferrite cells. Cells. Cells Interlinked. Here is a close-up from a piece of core memory I have laying around my apartment:
The array of ferrite cores are strung together to make each of the binary cells interlinked. Interlinked.
So what does this obsolete form of memory have to do with preparing for judgement day? Well, magnetic core memory is the only data storage format that is robust enough to withstand high-radiation environments. Jeri is clearly interested in magnetic logic and memory because it is the only computing platform that will be able to survive the first wave of nuclear blasts that will unavoidably come from the beginning of the third great world war. After the initial wave of EMP blasts, the only source of functional computer memory will have to come from salvaged toroidal cores from various used electronics and heaps of scrap. The highly irradiated port-war landscape will be unable to make use of standard silicon computer memory for centuries to come.
I'll Help You Out... But You Have to Work For Me
"I couldn't convince the [high] school to let me build a race car." "So, I went around to all the machine shops in town, and I found this one machinist, this crusty old guy that liked to swear a lot, and was a chain-smoker working in his one-man shop. He's like 'Yeah, I'll help you out..., but you have to work for me.'" And that's how Jeri started building race cars:
The above image of Jeri building her race car [scene from the 2010 hit film Pure Stock Race Car].
"I ended up dropping out of high school when I was racing cars because I was making so much money." "I started seeing how far I could push the rules. One of the things I built was a traction control system for my race car. I built a single-board 6502 computer (wire-wrap) and I measured the front-wheel spin by putting a hall sensor on it, and I measured the engine RPM." "I had a rev limiter in the car and it would just tell the rev limiter you're over-revving if the back tires were spinning more than the front tires." "Then, I started dominating, just completely dominating."
But don't let Jeri's focus on racing fool you, this is just another one her covert attempts to prepare for survival in a post-apocalyptic landscape. When the only form of transportation is whatever you can build by yourself from heaps of scrap metal, your survival may depend on it. And the roll-bars aren't just for show: The future is guaranteed to require many high-speed chases from weaponized drones that survey the land looking to hunt down any human survivors.
From the Beginning
But not every skill can be learned from a mentor. Some tendencies need to be born into you, and no less is true for Jeri:
"I really wanted a soldering iron. I was probably like 8 or 9 at the time." "I found that I could take wire-wound resistors, and hook them up to a wall-wart, they'd get really really hot, and I could melt solder that way." "So, all my soldering was done with this big 4 Watt wire-round resistor."
Her scavenging abilities started at an early age as well: "I would ride by bike nine miles into down, and we'd meet up in the middle of the night on a weekend." "We would plan out a strategy of how we were going to sneak up along side this assembly house and crawl into the dumpster with our backpacks, and load up all these circuit boards..." "We would set the circuit boards where the flames would be touching the bottom of the circuit board, and we'd heat them up until the solder would melt." "Then we'd tip them over and shake them real hard so that all the parts would fall out. Then we'd gather them all up and sort the good from the bad."
Furthermore, the modern convenience of oscilloscopes and meters is inadequate for a truly independent innovator who must rely directly on their physical senses: "My dad had bought me a 101 electronics kit from radio shack... and it had a piezo earpiece. I really enjoyed hooking that up to different parts of electronic circuits and listening to them. It's surprising how much you can understand about electronics just by the tones that they make. Calculators would make different whirs when you did different calculations than when they were idle. I've actually used that recently: Instead of having to look at a lot of different things happening [on the scopes], you can actually probe onto a circuit and listen for sounds and you'll know this circuit that you need to monitor is triggering or toggling because you can hear it, and you can then pay attention to another part of the circuit as you debug."
In the battlefields of the future, we will have to improvise in many ways to give us every possible advantage we can find. One technique that will come in handy will be the ability to build crude microwave scanners and radar out of used low-cost electronics and toys. In this series of videos, Jeri discusses how to build a crude 'TSA scanner' and discusses the theory of operation of Radar by demonstrating an actual implementation. These scanning devices can be useful for evaluating the structural health of military fortifications, but also for locating objects as is typically done with radar.
Detecting Robot Footsteps
In the future, there will be tremendous need for early-warning detection systems that can sense the footsteps of cybernetic organisms that roam the earth looking to cause trouble for the remaining human colonies. One technique that can be used to accomplish this uses resistive or conductive inks in a way that is similar to resistive multi-touch pads. In this video, Jeri discusses a prototype design for resistive 'Multi-touch Pad' prototype, but we all know that secretly she's planning to use it to detect robot intruders.
Infiltrating the Robot Mind
"Hi guys, thought I would show you my electron microscope." said Jeri as though she wasn't secretly planning to use it to reverse-engineer the CPU of a captured futuristic cybernetic organism from a well-planned raid on a remote outpost. "This thing looks really high-tech will all these buttons, it would be great for a B Sci-fi movie, if I ever do one." said Jeri. An innocent sounding joke, or a hint that she knows more about the future than she's willing to admit right now?
Post-Apocalyptic Communication Networks
Jeri's recently professed interest in HAM radio is an excellent cover for some of her most important work that will make an organized resistance against the robot armies viable: The home-made magnetic loop antenna. Why is this antenna so special? Well, Jerri gives us a hint: "I love exploring how far I can get a radio signal to go on the lowest amount of power" The magnetic loop antenna provides a method of low-power far-distance communication method that is less sensitive to ground effects. The ability to use the antenna directly on the ground is important, because erecting a tower from which to suspend the antenna won't be feasible for nomadic groups of surviving humans that can't build any sort of permanent structure in an exposed area.
In addition to the above references, you'll find even more examples (more than are listed here) of Jeri's efforts to find innovative solutions that will help us survive in a post-apocalyptic environment:.
As we've discussed herein Jeri Ellsworth clearly has bigger plans than what she might admit to in her online presence. The evidence for this comes from her involvement in a large number of technologies that would be most useful in a post-apocalyptic, cyborg infested, highly irradiated, landscape with no functional power grid. Jeri Ellsworth hates this article, but that's too bad because I'm blowing her secret wide open for the world to see.