A Major Peacetime Payoff From Faulty Torpedoes

Unlike its performance in Operation Desert Storm, high tech produced some snafus during the 1982 Falkland Islands crisis. Take sonar-guided torpedoes. "They never hit what they were aimed at," says Edward L. Titlebaum, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Rochester. Their guidance systems were confused by similar sonar signals from destroyers, subs, and other torpedoes.

Titlebaum began looking into the problem for the U. S. Navy, which wants to be sure its torpedoes hit their mark. What he cooked up promises that--and a lot more. In any signal-saturated environment, even urban skies filled with cellular-phone chatter, he has found a way to tack on a digital address code so each signal finds its intended receiver. And no matter how many signals flit around at the same frequency, there is always room for one more. In effect, Titlebaum's scheme would provide virtually unlimited capacity for digital cellular phone systems and computer networks.

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