Possible or impossible?

February 20, 2020
I went to our development lab, known as the ‘Garage,’ just as soon as they had finished developing the Lobster, and I told them we were going to work on a new and bigger project.

— Let’s create a walkie-talkie to help coaches to improve a swimmer’s technique during practice. The coach holds the transmitter, while a receiver is placed under the swimmer’s cap. The device will function underwater like sonar. It’s that simple.

The engineers tensed up and then exchanged glances.

— And what kind of receiver will it be, a big one?

— No, not at all. A tiny one, unnoticeable and round-shaped. No one has ever done this before,” I said. “Bone conduction will allow it to work anywhere on the skull.

Sergei, the project manager at Garage, was dejected.

— A tiny underwater walkie-talkie… Nothing like it in the world? — he asked. — Are you a fool?

— I believe in you, guys!” I responded. “But first, let’s do some tests to see if it’s possible at all.

The guys set their hearts upon the challenge and plunged into work. About three days later they joyfully reported:

— We found out that not all radio signal types can pass through water. Let’s say, all sorts of high-frequency Bluetooth and GSM won’t even pass one centimeter deep. Forget the phone with its GHz. Only long, low-frequency radio waves can reach deep underwater. And the longer the radio wave, the easier it passes through the water depth.

— Great, let’s do it! What’s wrong? Let’s make the prototype!

— There is a small problem,” the guys exchanged glances. “Do you understand what it means using a frequency with a wavelength of about 2 meters?

I needed no further explanation. When I was 17, I assembled my first computer — ZX Spectrum. And at the age of 14, I was inspired by the monthly youth magazine on science and technology, Young Technician, and I used to assemble radios, electronic bells, and other amateur electronic devices. As far as I could remember, the most common type of antenna is the quarter-wave whip, which is approximately one-quarter of a wavelength long. Well, I realized what they were driving at, and so I finished their reply:

— In short, a half-meter antenna will stick out from under the swimming cap…

I imagined a coach holding a remote control and yelling at a swimming TV set with a huge antenna sticking out of the water.

— Well, even if not 50 cm, we can make the antenna 25 or even 12.5 cm, but not less than that. It’s going to be big. We can make it look like headphones, but we can’t make it tiny and round.

For me, the word “impossible” is like a red flag in front of a bull — I will poke at it until the horns fall off. I’ve often come across the fact that people underestimate themselves. They don’t believe in themselves, but rather, they believe in what others consider impossible.

This doesn’t work with me, however. I usually ask for things that seem unrealistic, and somehow, unexpectedly people find the solution.

— Did I manage to do this? Really?

I believe that almost everything is possible, and only self-confidence and determination limits our abilities.

— We will later figure out if it’s possible or impossible. Let’s first assemble the first prototype with the smallest antenna size possible.

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