From Joke Gifts to Phony Bomb Detectors: The ATSC Trial
In 2008 Wired Magazine did a brief exposé on the Golfinder, a “novelty item” being marketed as an electronic golf ball finder. It turned out the machine was a joke, just an old-fashioned dowsing rod being sold for $49 and later $20.
In 2010, the Iraqi government announced a lawsuit against British company ATSC over $60,000 bomb detectors that turned out to be little more than a “car antenna mounted on a plastic box” and expensive cases with little to no electronics within.
What do these two stories have to do with each other? Everything, as it turns out. ATSC owner Jim McCormick, currently on trial in Britain for creating a company that sold devices that do literally nothing, turns out to have gotten the idea from the Golfinder, and indeed his first model of bomb finders were literally Golfinders themselves.
Incredibly, McCormick’s ADE100 bomb finder was literally a Golfinder with a few modifications and his company’s logo slapped on it. He bought 300, and they were sold to several nations for tens of thousands of dollars each before giving way to the ADE101, a similar device of his own design which similarly did absolutely nothing.
The original models had nothing on his later designs, including the ADE651, the high-end version sold to the Iraqi government in huge numbers during the occupation. The device included color-coded “sensor cards” that could supposedly allow the machine to be programmed to detect almost anything. The cards, as we reported in 2010, were pieces of plastic with a 5 cent RFID tag as their only electronics. The card reader was an empty plastic case with a slot for the card… and no electronics within.
Fascinating as all of this is, perhaps the most impressive aspect of this is that McCormick continues to insist in court that the devices actually do work, based on what he claims is “high school physics” but seems more a claim of magic.
McCormick says he put the “sensor cards” in sealed glass jars with whatever they were supposed to detect for a week, and they would “absorb the vapours” so that they would be able to detect them in the future. Needless to say, scientists say there is no basis for this claim.