Friday, July 20, 2018

Walmart's US Patent 10,020,004 and the 1963 Outer Limits episode "O.B.I.T."

About fifty-five years ago, when Kennedy was president, the Outer Limits had an episode titled O.B.I.T., starring Peter Breck (as Senator Orville), which delved into the consequences of surveillance and invasion of privacy.

In the storyline, aliens introduced a machine (named O.B.I.T.) into a government center named Cypress Hills which enabled the viewing of any individual within 500 miles. The machine had disastrous consequences on both the observers and the observed. As the exposed alien (Lomax) told the horrified humans before vanishing, the machine was designed to create rips and tensions in your society, producing a demoralized flotsam.

By the end of the episode, it was apparent that many OBIT machines existed. No one knew "who" the inventor was, and no one knew who authorized their spread. The machine was termed the most hideous creation ever conceived. Among other things, it was observed that no one could laugh anymore.

With Walmart's US Patent 10,020,004, it might seem that aliens are not the only ones of concern.
See Walmart's US Patent 10,020,004, "Listening to the Frontend": "A need exists for ways to capture the sounds resulting from people in the shopping facility"

On the 50th anniversary of the Outer Limits O.B.I.T. episode, in 2013, newsmax wrote

The fictional U.S. Sen. Jeremiah Orville arrives at the center to conduct a hearing on the device. It is soon discovered that the device had authorization from the Pentagon and was manufactured by a private contractor no longer in business.

"Nobody at the center is unaware of its existence," Byron Lomax, deputy director of Cypress Hills, assures Sen. Orville, and then offers the standard defense heard today to justify widespread surveillance: "People who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear from O.B.I.T."

"I'd hate to have that machine trained on me when I'm cussing out a fellow senator," replies Orville, "or the president, or my former law partner, or my wife."

The senator's questioning unearths some startling discoveries about the extent of O.B.I.T.'s eavesdropping. One civilian employee at the center calls it a "Peeping Tom machine. It follows you anywhere, anytime." Colonel Grover of the center’s military staff says on the witness stand that O.B.I.T.'s regular monitoring "is like a debilitating disease" and "the worst thing of all is I can't not look. It's like a drug or a horrible addiction."

As it turns out, there are O.B.I.T. devices doing monitoring on 18 military bases and they are also employed in civilian life: industry, education, and the communications business.


"One of the purposes of science fiction is to predict and prevent forces of evil. It's a shame more people were not exposed to the O.B.I.T. story and took the threat it foretold more seriously," [Carla] Howell said.


"O.B.I.T." is an acronym for "Outer Band Individuated Teletracer,” with the science of the episode assuming that
each individual exudes unique frequencies of radiation, which can be individuated.

Of nuances in the show, there is first a reference to the "war department" (which did not exist at the time) AND a reference to the "defense department." Scientists are characterized in a not flattering fashion.

About six years after "OBIT," the tv show "Family Affair" did an interesting show on privacy ("A Matter of Privacy," (3 Feb. 1969)) which touched on both industrial espionage AND personal matters.



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