34. “The Lives They Lived: Claude Shannon, B. 1916; Bit Player.”
James Gleick. New York Times Magazine. Dec. 30, 2001.
Claude Shannon (1916-2001) was an American mathematician, electrical engineer, computer scientist, and cryptographer known as “the father of information theory.” Shannon’s theories laid the groundwork for the electronic communications network now used all over the planet. Shannon and Edward O. Thorp met in September 1960 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and applied mathematics to see if they could predict where the ball would land on a roulette wheel. Together they would spend about eight months building the first wearable computer.
Thorp originally became intrigued about the roulette wheel while in high school studying planetary positions. He felt there was an analogy between the circling roulette ball and an orbiting planet, or of a pendulum that is gradually dissipating energy. “Since planetary positions were accurately predictable, I thought I might be able to forecast the outcome of a roulette pin.” Edward O. Thorp. A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market. Random House Publishing Group, 2017. Page 44.
36. Wearable Computer.
Courtesy of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum.
“The computer has 12 transistors that allowed its wearer to time the revolutions of the ball on a roulette wheel and determine where it would end up. Wires led down from the computer to switches in the toes of each shoe, which let the wearer covertly start timingthe ball as it passed a reference mark. Another set of wires led up to an earpiece that provided audible output in the form of musical cues -- eight different tones represented octants on the roulette wheel. When everything was in sync, the last tone heard indicated where the person at the table should place their bet.” Billy Steele. Engadget.com. The Unlikely Father of the Wearable Computing. Distro. September 13, 2013.
Using the model, they were able to predict any single number with a standard deviation of 10 pockets. This converts to a 44% edge on a bet on a single number. Betting on a specific octant gave them a 43% advantage. Thorp and Shannon went to Las Vegas in August 1961 to test the computer in a real environment. It was successful “turning small piles of dime chips into large ones.” The difficulty they encountered had to do with output. While the small computer worn around the waist was inconspicuous enough, the earpiece proved more difficult.
“Even though they were steel, they were so fine that they broke frequently, leading to long interruptions while we returned to our rooms and went through the tedious process of doing the repairs and then rewiring [the bettor].” Between this and the knowledge that casinos could change the rules at any time to stop allowing betting after the ball was spun, they ended their project. Edward O. Thorp. A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market. Random House Publishing Group, 2017. Page 133.
38. Man’s shoe.
Using the roulette computer was a two-person job. One person would wear the device and time the wheel. Edward O. Thorp and Claude Shannon had trained their big toes to operate switches hidden in their shoes. The other person, the bettor, would sit at the table with a receiver (a tiny loudspeaker pushed into one ear canal and connected by very thin wires to the radio receiver, which was concealed under his clothing), hearing the results as various audio tones.
40. Wearable Computers Outlawed in Nevada on May 30, 1985.
Articles from the UCI Libraries Special Collections and Archives, Edward O. Thorp Papers.
1. Senate Bill Number 467. 1985 State Senate (Nevada, 1985).
2. Blackjack Devices to Count Cards Barred by Nevada Assembly. Los Angeles Times. May 24, 1985.
In 1961 there were no laws in Nevada about the use of computers in casinos. Twenty-four years later Nevada passed an emergency measure banning use or possession of any device to predict outcomes, analyze probabilities, help with strategy, or count cards.
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Introduction - A Natural Talent (Items 1-12) - A Winning Hand (Items 13-23)
Beat the House (Items 24-33) - A Spin of the Wheel (Items 34-44) - Higher Mathematics at UCI (Items 45-55)
A Career in Quantitative Finance (Items 56-64) - Tips from the Master - Newport Life & Philanthropy (Items 65-70)
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