Oral-History:Mario W. Cardullo

About Mario Cardullo

Senior IEEE member Mario W. Cardullo, Ph.D. is a Registered Professional Engineer and an American inventor with multiple patents, most notably for the modern RFID in 1969 (patented in 1970 and issued in Jan 1973). He received a BME and an MME from NYU-Poly, an MEA degree from George Washington University, and a Ph.D. in IT from George Mason University. Dr. Cardullo has served as a professor and written multiple textbooks, and has been instrumental in establishing several businesses. He is presently Chairman of Cardullo Innovations Group Ltd. in the Washington D.C. area. In this oral history, Dr. Cardullo recalls his early family life, his education, and entrance into the world of engineering, his contribution to liquid fuel research as a Variable Thrust Senior Propulsion Engineer for Belcom in the early days of the Apollo Program, and as First Corporate Planner for the Communications Satellite Corporation, where he published papers on his concept for maritime communication satellites (1966), leading to Immarsat, mobile communication satellites. Here he describes the fascinating and often connected circumstances that led to several of his inventions, including the RFID, patented in 1973, a method for tracking electronic addresses (patented in 2011), a (UV) light-based visible light generator (patented in 2013), and a nano RFID(patent issued in 2017). He also offers professional advice to young engineers and inventors, and comments on the value of IEEE and other digital resources to his continuing work.

Interview Topics

  • Early Life; Primary/Secondary School; Career Influences
  • Higher Education: Mechanical Engineering
  • Early Career
  • How a Chance Meeting led to the invention of RFID
  • Patented Inventions
  • Satellite Communications
  • Rockets
  • On the Way to RFID
  • Communications Satellites
  • Inventing Solutions

About the Interview

An Interview Conducted by Dr. Lisa Nocks, IEEE History Center, 24 July 2019 Interview #827 For the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Samuel C. Williams Library, 3rd Floor, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken NJ 07030 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: Mario Cardullo, an oral history conducted in 2019 by Lisa Nocks, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.


Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Mario Cardullo

INTERVIEWER: Lisa Nocks

DATE: 24 July 2019

PLACE: Alexandria, VA

Nocks:

Okay. So we'll just begin by--

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Sure.

Nocks:

--identifying yourself. And the first thing that I would like to talk to you about is your inspiration for becoming an engineer in the first place. And then we'll work our way backwards, as you talk about--

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Okay.

Nocks:

--your early life and training, and all that . . .

Early Family Life; Primary/Secondary School; Career Influences

Hi. I'm Mario Cardullo. I'm from Brooklyn, New York, where I grew up. And I'm the son of immigrants. My mother came here when she was twenty-one from Sicily, Messina, and she had been studying to become a teacher there but her father, who immigrated four years before, brought her and her whole--her seven brothers and sisters, and her mother, back in 1929. My father was born here but his father, who was a seaman came here with his wife in 1895. And from Sicily, near the city of Taormina. Taormina is about four, five kilometers--no, ten kilometers from Messina. However, my father had to leave school when he was fourteen and a half because his father died of the flu epidemic. And he needed to support his mother and two brothers and a sister. My father loved to read.

I went to a catholic school, Saint Augustus Grammar School, on Park Slope. Now, that's where I became an engineer. Up to that time, I loved to play, like a lot of other children. And I even kept a notebook of different things I'd build, and a little chemistry set to make things. But I never thought of myself as an engineer. I was fourteen and the nun teaching the class was Sister Helen Claire. I remember her name to this day. Now I'm 84-years-old. One day, she came to me and said, "You know, I think you'd make a great engineer." And I said, "You think so?" I never thought of myself that way. She said, "Why don't you try out for Brooklyn Technical High School?"

You had to take an exam to get in. It had 6,000 students in it. At the time it was all boys, no young ladies. Now there are young ladies. And I said, "Wow. You know, I'll take the exam." And lo and behold, of a hundred they choose about ten students. And the class was bigger than a hundred but it's only 10% of the students who take the exam get in.

So, I went to Brooklyn Tech, and that was fascinating to me. I'd walk to school about a mile and a half, and the classes were fascinating. It was always interesting, we had to attend movies where they were talking about making steel, coal, wood -- everything. And then the school itself had a classroom big enough where they were building a house. In another one they were building a bridge – a Bailey bridge.; and another one where they had airplanes.

I was in the college prep. course because I wanted to go to college. And, when I was there, I worked for the New York City radio station, WNYE FM. I was an announcer and headed the sound effects department, where you have to be creative in making sounds. It was a great school and I really, really enjoyed it. Meantime, I started to sell shoes when I was sixteen. My father had been a musician but then became a shoe salesman and then the manager of a shoe store. I worked my way from sixteen to twenty-two selling shoes, and then also working sometimes when I was in college for the State of New York as a junior engineer.

Well, here I am at Brooklyn Tech, but when I was a kid there was no television, there was radio, and we'd go to the library. My father was an avid reader, and he started to take me to the library and to the museums, and so I was reading about archeology. I got so interested in it, and I thought, "Oh, maybe I'll be an archeologist . . . go to Columbia and be an Egyptologist." As a young boy at ten and eleven, I was able to, you know, learn some hieroglyphics but not a lot, and so I was doing that. With my friend Michael Pasqalone, we'd build airplanes in his basement and try to fly these big gliders, but the wind would sometimes just hook wrench the wings. Michael and I are still good friends after all these years.

Well, here I am, as a young kid in Brooklyn, and my father used to take me, during the Second World War, to Radio City in Manhattan, and we'd walk around. My dad didn't have a lot of money. There was a museum there that had all sorts of interesting science material. It was a small science museum in the RCA building, and I went in there – and this had an impact on what I'm going to tell you later. I noticed that there were all sorts of technologies being used in the Second World War, and one of them was something called “Friend or Foe” that was used in fighters to recognize a friendly aircraft by sending out a radio signal. And that's – if it bounced off a transponder – basically a device that would just reflect back a number; they could tell if that person – that plane – was a friend or foe. And it just stuck in my head, like a lot of things. You never – you never realize what you pick up along the way, because here I probably was, at that time – I was born in 1935 – this would have been when I was about ten . . . nine or ten, okay? I know I'm jumping a little bit.

When I was at Brooklyn Tech, I met another student. We would take the subway, and we'd talk about what he was interested in, and it was rockets. Well, here I'm an Italian American kid who didn't speak English until I was seven because I stayed with my grandmother. I spoke Sicilian. And lo and behold, I got interested in it. (I was 16 at the time) and I went to my mother and I said, "You know, I think I know I'm going to be a rocket propulsion engineer." Now, this would have been in 1951. And she says, "Why do you want to do that?" I said, "I want to send a man to the moon." And my mother said, "Why do you want to do that? There's nothing there. There's absolutely nothing." I said, "I'm going to do it." I then applied to then join the American Rocket Society and I was the youngest to become a member. Now, that has been merged into the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. I decided instead of going to Columbia to be an archeologist – and I'm still interested in archaeology to this day – I would become a rocket engineer. I've been a member of the American Institute of Archology since the time I was about 16. In a way, I'm glad I didn't go become an archeologist, because my knees would be shot by this time in life.

Higher Education: mechanical engineering

I applied to and attended a school that was very interesting. It was Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute – now part of NYU. Now, many people have never heard of it but those in the electronics field and in the polymer, chemistry fields would know it because microwaves were developed there, and so was polymer chemistry, and hypersonic flight. I can't say I was a good student. I was an average student. So going along, I met a professor there who was Hungarian and had been one of the students of Theodore von Kármán, and I said to him, "We need to set up a student chapter of the American Rocket Society." And I went to the little office that was American Institute of Rocket Society, and the Director, who was running it, it was just him and a secretary. He said, "Okay, we'll start it and, you know, you'll have the first meeting at your school. And then you can--we'll expand it to the other universities." So he did--he eventually became the President of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics when they were merged. And so I did that. And then with the professor, we started up a group to build a liquid rocket engine. And we actually built it and fired it.

Okay. So here I was in school, doing what I want. Now, there was no aerospace engineering. This was in – I entered college in 1953, and graduated with my first degree in '57. There was nothing. So, half of my courses were in aeronautics and half in mechanical engineering; thermodynamics. I figured that's a merge of both. And then at times, I worked during the school year in the hypersonic lab as an assistant to the head of the lab, who is the father of hypersonics, and one of my professors. And it was fascinating, running Mach 13 blowdown tunnels. I was just a – you know, a student that – and we didn't have big computers. We did calculations on a mechanical calculator, and my log duplex slide rule, which I still have. So off we went.

Early Career

I was working at the school after I graduated for a while as a teaching assistant. The school received a contract from the Air force on fluid instability of tanks and how they affected the combustion and stability because we were having a lot of problems in the military with the engines basically blowing up. I was working on this but, you know, it was a little hard. I was thinking of getting married the following year when my ex-wife graduated. And you can't support a family on $75 a week. So, I applied for a position in New Jersey, near Picatinny Arsenal. It was the Naval Air Rocket Test Station. I applied there, and I was given a job, a civil service job. I was a GS-5, and I still have the papers, rocket propulsion engineer. And that was my dream come true.

Nocks:

Wow.

Cardullo:

Next to us, they were building the X-15 engine reaction motors, and here I was working with other engineers, building real liquid rocket engines. One of the engines I was assigned to work on was something called a variable thrust liquid engine. Now, the engineer who had invented it had not done any equations to figure it out. He just was playing with it. This was for the Navy’s use as a dash engine for naval fighter jets, where this would be mounted; and if they wanted to drop a nuclear weapon, they'd go in, drop a nuclear bomb, and make a turn – a high-speed turn, and run out of there as fast as possible.

Nocks:

[Laughs]

Cardullo:

I was given the job of being the project engineer on that. I sat down and – I liked to write equations, and so I wrote a series of equations on how all variable thrust engines work. And then I was testing these and also working on monopropellants – these were – nitrates dissolved in red fuming nitric acid. They are corrosive, explosive, and toxic. I remember carrying a gallon of that stuff on my lap with Dr. Clarke, the Director of the chemistry lab there, who had invented it. And I was in his MG, riding up a dirt road to a test facility where we were going to put about – less than a centimeter of this thing in a tube, put a steel plate over it, and put a detonator underneath. So, when this blew up you would know how bad it was by the hole it drilled right through the plate. It's called the gap test, by putting different gaps underneath us.

So here I am doing what I wanted to do. I got married, and we moved nearby to White Meadow Lake, New Jersey, and by then had a child. Meantime, I would be traveling from Lake Denmark, New Jersey, where the facility was located – about 45 minutes from Montclair, New Jersey, where I originally was living. And then I’d get on a train and go to Hoboken, New Jersey, where I got on a ferry. Get on the ferry, cross the river, walk up the street and take the Metro, and go to Brooklyn Poly for my master's. I did this for two years and got my master's degree in mechanical engineering. My specialty was fluid flow and thermodynamics. I was having a good time doing all of this and by then I was a GS-11. This was about three and a half years later.

And I was writing papers. I loved to write papers. I've published maybe, over 200 papers, and several textbooks. By then we had two children, and I said, "No, I don't know if I want to stay in the government." After three and a half, almost four years – by the way, I started there October 1st, 1957 – two days before Sputnik.

Nocks:

Wow.

Cardullo:

During the morning drive – initially I was driving from Brooklyn there. You could see when Sputnik passed over. In December of 1960, I was offered a job to go to Honeywell Aeronautics in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They wanted me to get them into the small rocket engine business for reaction control.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Rockets

Cardullo:

Well, that was fun. I did – I worked on small engines, including the ancient detonation engine where it would give a precise pulse using something called –what is it? ‘that fluorine? It's not a fluorine compound but fluorescein. And this stuff – fluorescein – about two to three parts per million will kill you. So my staff would – our technicians would have to be in zipped up suits. I worked with other chemicals like that at the Naval Air Rocket Test Station and it became, by the way, part of Picatinny Arsenal before I left. The last engine I actually designed that was used was the variable thrust plug nozzle engine, or aerospike nozzle for the Lance Missile, which was in operation for over 20 years. That's the last real engine I built.

But at Honeywell, I was doing all sorts of stuff in the engine business, trying to get them in. Then I received a letter from Germany. It was from the German Rocket Society and they wanted me to be a speaker on variable thrust because I had quoted all about the German engines because I had all those files when I was working for the navy. But, Honeywell wouldn't send me. I was too young of an engineer. So, I wrote a paper; and this is interesting: I wrote a paper on variable thrust for them and sent them, my slides, these were glass slides. I still have them.

And I said to my wife, "I don't want to stay here. They don't treat people right." At that time, President Kennedy had just started the Apollo program. And I applied for a couple of jobs and I was offered two: one to go to Grumman on Long Island to be the chief propulsion engineer on a lunar excursion module (LEM) and the other one was in Washington. Now, I didn't take the Grumman job because it was too close to my family – too many people. And I didn't want to stay in Minnesota. I say I lived there for two winters and a day of summer.

Nocks:

[Laughs] Yes!

Cardullo:

And in the summer the mosquitos are big enough that you have to watch the kids don't get taken away. But, in any case, I – I was offered this job in Washington, and it was a special company that very few people have ever heard of called Bellcom.

Nocks:

Oh, I know about them.

Cardullo:

It was set up by Bell Labs and President Kennedy to be the chief systems engineers on Apollo. And it was probably the most interesting company I ever worked for because everybody there had at least a master's degree. Half had Ph.D.'s, and every consultant was a Nobel laureate. I remember being once in the men's room and the gentleman standing there whose name was a Nobel laureate I had studied in engineering school; unbelievable. I was given responsibility for all the main engines on Apollo. An associate of mine, who had been at Reaction Motors was made responsible for all the reaction control engines. I had fun working there. I was working for the fellow who became eventually the president of Bell Labs, Dr. Ian Ross.

Meantime, I got interested in systems engineering instead of going for a doctorate . . . and I started to work for my master's in engineering administration, at George Washington University. I moved my family to Potomac, Maryland. And this may not be as technical as you think but what I'm going to tell you led to the RFID.

Nocks:

I see.

On the Way to RFID

Cardullo:

I was living there. I was Catholic at the time, and I found out that just up the street from us in our community called Potomac Woods there was land the Catholic Church owned. “Oh,” I said, "Wow, let me write to the bishop's office and see when they're going to build a church there or maybe a school," because I had three small children under three. I wrote and I got a letter back from the archbishop. Not the archbishop, the bishop – Bishop Hannan, who had been a chaplain in the Second World War in the paratroopers. And he would jump out with a machine gun with them. You know, he reminded me of somebody from the Renaissance. And he said, "My son, only God can tell me when we need a church."

And I immediately said to myself, "Well I'm a scientist and knew you could analyze the need." So, I set up a committee and we did statistical walks. I had women throwing coins at which house they would go to in a community and ask them questions. We had – and then I prepared about a half-inch thick report with statistical analysis. And at the end I put the letter from the bishop underlined, and I sent it to the archbishop. I then received a call from the archbishop's office, Archbishop O'Boyle. He later became a cardinal but was a little old Irish priest from Pennsylvania. You know, the office said, “The archbishop wants to talk to you.”

So, being on the Apollo project I was used to preparing presentations for the director of the program at NASA. I made flip charts on the finances. And I'm briefing the archbishop. And he's looking at me and I don't know – I don't think he got the fact of the – all the charts I was showing him, and the money, and how it could be done. He says, "That's interesting, my son." In the meantime, I am going for my master's, and I need a thesis topic. Now, you may not think all this leads to the RFID, but it does.

I get a call from then Bishop Hannan: "Come down and see me." You know, this sort of “military bishop.” I go down and he says, "You know, Mario, you are right. We do need a church there, but we have a problem. We don't have enough priests." I say, "You know, I'm looking for a thesis topic in engineering administration and operations research. Why don't I take that on as a project?" He said, "But, my son, only God can tell us when we have enough priests." Okay. I go back. And then about two weeks later he's appointed archbishop of New Orleans.

Then I get a call from a Monseigneur who was heading their HR program. And I go meet with him and he says, "That's interesting. I'll open up the files to you, – the archdiocese of Washington – on all the churches and everything. And you can do a thesis." So, lo and behold, I did a 380-page thesis with equations and everything else on the forecast for the need for priests and the location of churches in the archdiocese of Washington. The first management study of the Catholic Church. And I got my master's in engineering administration.

By then I had been at Bellcom for about three and a half, four years, and the project was coming to a close. This is – it would have been four years before the landing because a lot of the [engineering] stuff is done. The rest of its field testing. And I didn't feel like going back to New Jersey, to Bell Labs. Dr. Ross, who was the president of Bellcom at the time said, "Mario, you're such a good system engineer. We want you." I say, "Yeah, but I don't want to go back to New Jersey."

I was offered a job down the street at a company called Communications Satellite Corporation. I was number one hundred hired, first in the technical staff where I was given the responsibility for placing and writing the equations for the placing of the IntelSat. I was asked to look at the need for an aeronautical satellite. This would have been 1965-66; and I did a big study on that, and I showed that there was no need until about 1995 for a satellite to communicate. I wrote all sorts of equations, gave papers on it.

Oh, by the way, in the meantime, after I got my master's thesis, I wrote papers for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) on my Catholic Church studies and all the equations. It was an interesting period. I gave a scientific paper, at a scientific organization, on a non-scientific subject. So, this is the fun part of my life . . . also they formed the church.

Nocks:

They built that church?

Cardullo:

Yes. It's now the second-largest church in the archdiocese of Washington, with over 3,000 families. Meantime, there are other things happening. I get a call from a bishop's conference in the United States: "Can you put a team together and we want you – we will hire you to do a study of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa."

Communications Satellites

By that time I had gone from technical staff, to become the first corporate planner for communications satellite, working for the chairman and the president of the company. The president I had met when he was at Princeton, Dr. Charyk, doing rocket propulsion research. And the chairman was General McCormick, a retired Air force general. And so I got permission from them to do you know, go out to Davenport every once in a while with my little team I put together. And we held meetings with the communities and everything. We did a five-volume study of that, and I got paid by them. So, again, how does this lead to the invention of the RFID?

Nocks:

[Interposing] Right, the –.

Cardullo:

I was at Comsat at the time [1969] and I was, you know, I'm working for the, the guys who are working for making at least ten times what I was making, and I'm doing these studies. So, what happened was that I was asked to go out by the archbishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, to brief him on my studies. And I went out. On the way back, however, I sat next to an engineer from IBM. And he was working on a project called Car Track, which is a barcode system for railroad cars.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

And he was telling me all the problems they're having. So, having been at the Bell Labs where I kept a notebook, I took out – and I did keep a notebook even when I was a little boy. I sketched what I thought would be a solution. Basically, something I remembered from a kid called Friend and Foe. And then I put a memory system in it. And it was a transponder that could receive, transmit, and change – and change data. I put it in my notebook.

[Brief break in the conversation.]

Nocks:

Okay?

Cardullo:

All right.

Nocks:

All right.

Cardullo:

Well, I was at Comsat and I got – from my studies that I was doing on the future of communications satellites, I wrote a paper.


Nocks:

Yes. The, the microphone is, is in your shirt.

Cardullo:

Okay.

Nocks:

And I want to make sure that it's out.

Cardullo:

Yes. You'll hear me breathing.

Nocks:

[Laughs]

[Brief break in the conversation to adjust the microphone.]

Cardullo:

[Interposing] What I'm going to tell you is what changed a lot of things in the – -in our world of electronics.

Nocks:

Okay.

Cardullo:

Yeah. Well, the paper on the aeronautical satellite you –I used that to give a paper – well, a couple things: When I was doing that study, I asked the US Navy to give me a printout of the ships at sea in the Atlantic. It looked like millions of flies on the paper because there were at any one point at that period there were 10,000 ships in the Atlantic Ocean. I couldn't believe it.

Nocks:

What period are we talking about?

Cardullo:

We're talking about 1966.

Nocks:

Okay.

Cardullo:

And then I said, "Well, how many are sinking and people dying?" And I had all that, and I made a – made charts. And then I said, well, in the middle of, of the ocean at that time you couldn't get anything because it was, you know, basically – we were transmitting and on short wave you can't get it in the middle of the ocean. And so, there was a lot of people dying from sinking. I said, "Why not put up a satellite to communicate with ships at sea?"

Nocks:

Okay.

Cardullo:

I think it was early 1966, I gave a paper at the FCC conference here on that, saying that we needed that for safety at sea. After I finished the paper and I got a standing ovation. I said, "Well, you need it, and that was obvious." And next thing was that Captain Dorian, who was the head of communications at the Coast Guard said, "Look, I'm on the International Maritime Consultant Organization board. Why don't you write me a paper about this, and I'll present it in London for you?" And I did; he did. And he came back and says, "You wouldn't believe this. The Soviets at that time said, 'We're going to put up a transponder for ships at sea.'" For the just – and that has probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Nocks:

Sure.

Cardullo:

I'm very proud of that one.

Nocks:

You should be.

Cardullo:

You don't do things for money. You do things for that. That's what an engineer does. And I got involved with Chuck Dorian. Now, Comsat didn't want to have to do anything with this. They were worrying more about how– that AT&T was on their board – it wouldn't, you know, have an impact on them and so forth. And then I said to Chuck, "Let's write a paper for the International Telecommunication Union, ITU." And in July of 1969 we wrote a paper with me as the lead author, laying out everything you could do with mobile communication satellites. Now, I didn't know it at the time that Navy had done a secret project called GPS two years before, but I laid out GPS.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Inventing Solutions

Cardullo:

– and it was published by the ITU in four languages; English, French, German, and Russian; and eventually that led to Inmarsat. Okay? Meantime, I was getting fed up with Comsat and nothing going on. And so, I had also been experimenting and looking at how to digitize medical data. This is 1969. Same time that I thought of the RFID. Meantime, I'm giving papers for the Industrial Management Center of Harvard, where they wanted me to give talks. So, I was up in Lake Placid about August of that year giving a paper for them. And, at the end of the meeting, a guy came up to me, his name was Daniel J. Webster.

Nocks:

Come on.

Cardullo:

Honest to God. And Dan was a cashed-out entrepreneur. He had actually worked after the war for Litton and he was the project engineer on the first microwave.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

He joined a company that was making tape drives on Long Island. And he became the executive vice president, and then he had just cashed out making, I don't know, maybe three, five million dollars, which is a lot in '69.

Nocks:

Sure.

Cardullo:

And he says, "Let me drive you down to Albany, where you can catch a plane back to Washington easily." Okay. He asked me about what I was doing, and I told him. He says, "Why don't you put together a management team with some of your ideas? I'll come down. If it looks good, I'll get investors from New York to invest in you." I thought, okay. So, I put together a couple of the guys who had been with – one guy who had been with me on the church study. He was a CPA. I got a young engineer whose company was about to go out of business, who was an electrical engineer and designed circuits, and a marketing guy from Martin Marietta.

And I said, "Okay, guys. A friend of mine is going to come down and we could brief him on ideas." We didn't want to be a “one-trick pony” with my medical device to analyze EKG's. So, I put in this thing I call the Encoder, which is the thing I had copied from – on, on the airplane, I had made.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

And a couple of other things. Dan came down and we briefed him. And I showed him this device that basically had no batteries, just with a transceiver with non-volatile memory. Back and forth, it could send data and receive and change data, changeable memory. I had all these things you could do with it, like toll systems, opening doors, medical data, and so forth. And I still have that sheet. It's – and so he says, "You know what you have?" I said, "Yeah, it solves all these problems." I'm a problem solver. And, and then I showed him the other thing where we could build a device to take EKG's, digitize them, store them on a digital cassette deck, and have a – then a low-speed modem, 60 baud to 120 baud, and a simple processor and a keyboard. So, nurses could take the EKG, and then our system would call it and download it. And we would then take it to a mainframe where we used the program developed by the NIH called the Casares program for analyzing EKG's. And then charge the doctors.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

He says, "Great." I said okay. Next thing I know, I started getting checks in the mail for $50,000 from people I didn't know.

Nocks:

Really?

Cardullo:

To set up this company. I raised a half a million dollars in 1969. At the end of '69, I had said to everybody, "Okay, you have to quit your jobs and we'll go work." And all of the my associates had children, so they were very shaky. So, We all left our jobs to start the company.

We opened an office in Rockville, and hired a draftsman, a secretary and two junior engineers, and we started to build these systems. One was the medical device. We never applied for patents on it, by the way. And then, then we worked with a patent attorney in DC to build out, you know, the patent for which we called the Encoder, which became the first RFID, and build it. Bill Parks, who I made the chief engineer, I put his name on the patent too, because I believe people who work with you and contribute should be recognized.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm. Sure.

Cardullo:

And he was a circuit designer, and I – you have to be willing to share with people.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

And then we started to build it. We hired two engineers. Now, at that time I knew that the Bell Labs, because I had been there, was coming out with solid state memory. However, they didn't have it. So, we built a device about equivalent to three cigarette packs that had 16 bit memory, that we hand-wound these little doughnuts, ferrite doughnuts we hand-wound and put in there. Then – and meantime we were building these consoles, which were easy to build, and were taking off-the-shelf items, and building it, and we gave them to twenty-five hospitals in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, who did not have a cardiologist on their staff. And my doctor, who was also a cardiologist, we gave him some stock and he would over read the EKG.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

Our PDP8 minicomputer would download the data from each hospital on the hour and this was the first digital transmission of medical data ever done on this earth.

Nocks:

How long did it take at that time to transfer one EKG report over the phone?

Cardullo:

It was relatively rapid for 1970 because the data was not analog but digital.

Nocks:

[Interposing] Yes –

Cardullo:

– into digital. And then we take the data to Comsat’s laboratory where we rented time. They had their laboratory out in Germantown, MD. We had them over read by the cardiologist who was just about a mile or so from the office, Dr. Manzini, and then he would send back the analysis by drum FAX. We had racks of drum FAXs.

Nocks:

Wow.

Cardullo:

Meantime, we were building – because we didn't want to be a one-trick pony, but we didn't have a lot of money, you know. But Dan said, "Oh, well, the market's roaring along. We'll take you public in '71." And this is in '70. We built this first breadboard RFID. And in January of '71, Dan had arranged for a meeting at the Port Authority in New York, at the George Washington Bridge, where we had this on a car and we drive through transceivers on the side. And back and forth. And he said, "Wow, gee. It's so big. Why would you put that on the window of your car?" I said, "We can reduce it to a small chip and basically have a very small footprint." Oh, and then they said, "What happens if somebody doesn't have it and goes through the gates?" I says, "Well, very simple. You take a picture of their license plate and you send them a ticket." "Oh, that would be a violation of constitutional privacy laws." Well, years later my EZ Pass wasn't working, and on the way to New York, I ended up with a ticket.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

Okay? So, we were doing that.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

Meantime, we were running out of money and then the market crashed in 1970.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

And my marketing vice president got a little upset because he was getting business and he should run the company and all the people. Okay? You know how you kill the goose that laid the golden egg? So, I said, guys – I was being pressured by two of the investors. My investors were – this is where I made a mistake – were not “smart money.” Dan was the only techie. Another guy was an owner of a piano company. Another guy was a Wall Street broker. Another one was an orthodontist. Another was a real estate lawyer from New York. And, you know, and the real estate lawyer and the orthodontist said, "Well, we'll give you money, but you have to hypothecate the patent to us, and you have to become a subchapter S." I said, "We do that, you'll never go public."

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

I was being pressured to sell more of my stock to, to the staff. Okay? I had taken half and given the rest to the employees and the investors. I've had enough of this. So, I went off, stayed on the board, and set up a company Venture Management. And some of my friends who were at the World Health Organization wanted me to get involved with setting up a four-handed dentistry clinic. And they invited me to Mexico to speak on systems engineering applied to dentistry. So, I went off to do that. A year after I left the company, the company went under. And the two investors took the patents but they never did anything with it. I kept on calling and saying, "You've got to do something." "No, no. It's important. We'll keep it in a safe."

Nocks:

[Laughs]

Cardullo:

Okay? Meantime, about – the patent was issued in January of 1973. The first patent ever issued for an RFID, which I called the Encoder but basically it is recognized as the first patent. And the Port Authority, the end of that year, went to companies like GE and others, and said – and also to another one of the – hold on, I forget, one on Long Island that was connected with the US government. Said, "Look, can you build us something like this?" They violated my patent. By the time I found out, one, I didn't have the money to sue them, and, two, it was almost too late. So, I never made a dime out of a 25 billion dollar industry. I've gotten awards, none from my government but from—

Nocks:

[Interposing] Mm-hmm?

Cardullo:

The French, the British--the Brits at Whitehall, George Washington University, NYU, Brooklyn Tech, but nothing from my government.

Nocks:

Well, since you're talking about this – I was going to save it until the end – but I wanted to know what your philosophy is about patenting and the future of—

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Oh, I think you should patent.

Nocks:

– this kind of engineering. Yeah.

Cardullo:

And patent is a way, at least, to protect your rights as far as you can be protected without – it costs a lot of money for patents. So, one thing led to another. I can go on and talk about what happened with the invention of a machine that cooks pasta and how I raised three and a half million dollars for a pasta business. And – but there is a lot. Well, from this, I then got a second stint in the government in '74. At the embryonic Department of Energy. And I was asked by my boss, who was the Deputy Administrator for Data, to set up something called a National Information Center (NEIC).

Nocks:

Really? That was you, huh?

Cardullo:

That was me.

Nocks:

Putting all the computer systems together. And then I stayed there for a number of years because I was getting a divorce. I got remarried, been happily married for 43 years now. And then I left to start this pasta business called Yankee Noodle Dandy, first fast food pasta business. We built units and one of my investors went “over the hill,” costing me a lot of money afterwards, but I survived. My children call me a phoenix. I rise from my ashes. And then let's see. What else?

Nocks:

Can I ask—

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Oh, but I've invented other things that have interest – that are electronic.

Nocks:

Yeah. Okay, great.

Cardullo:

Now, everything I'm talking about is electronic.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

I'm a member of the IEEE as senior, it's now emeritus senior member. I've never applied to be a fellow. I'm associate fellow at American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a fellow of an institute on innovation in England. But I'm an inventor and I solve problems. I'll talk about some of my inventions, not how I necessarily got there. But one, which has been – well, let me talk about the RFID and some expansion on that. One of my inventions, which was issued about six, seven years ago, we built it as a device that has an RFID, a GPS, and a storage system and an algorithm that compresses. I can store information for eight – eighteen months of information on it.

Nocks:

Really?

Cardullo:

Yeah. We built it the size of a cigarette pack. You learn– except I – in Washington it's hard to raise money in the technology field, believe it or not.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

I – we built that. By the way, in-between I became an adjunct professor and senior research associate at Virginia Tech, at our graduate center, for sixteen years, where I taught the capstone and engineering administration, and the strategic management in the MBA program. And then I wrote one of my first textbooks which is called, Introduction to Managing Technology. And then my next textbook I wrote– and these are several hundred pages, and I wrote every single word. It's called, Technological Entrepreneurs: Enterprise Formation, Funding, and Growth – 480 pages. I wrote every single one of them with a fountain pen, a Montblanc fountain pen. And then typed it into my computer because I can write faster than I can – I only type with two fingers. These are hundreds of thousands of words. I had to do all the drawings and everything. And, funny, I got a call once from the president of Montblanc and he said, "You're telling me you wrote a technology book on using a fountain pen?" I say, "Yes, the ideas flow like the ink."


Nocks:

Beautiful.

Cardullo:

And so that book, I – well, let me have some water.

Nocks:

Sure. Pause for a second anyway, because—

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Am I going on too long?

Nocks:

No, no, no. We leave this to you. You talk for as long as you want.

Cardullo:

I mean if you want – if you want—

Nocks:

[Interposing] I have a few more questions that are—

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Yeah. And then—



Nocks:

Uh-huh.

Cardullo:

Then I was teaching. Then one of my consulting clients was a lawyer. Well, I had helped him do a major study on amorphous metal transformers (AMTs). In 2001 he became the Under Secretary of Commerce for the International Trade Administration. And he asked me to join him as his Counselor for Technology and Entrepreneurism. And he said to me, "How much money do you need to run your office?" I said nothing except my salary and travel and I would raise the rest entrepreneurially. I raised millions of dollars to promote entrepreneurism around the world for the United States. I chaired joint working group venture capital with China. So that got me going to China. After I retired from the government I became a visiting professor Peking University in Beijing. While lecturing in China, I worked with my publisher to publish my book in Chinese The university organized a committee to translate my 480 page textbook. Now, it took me eighteen months to write the book. It took them two years to translate it into Chinese. And one of the committee members, a former high school English teacher who had started a new company in China, was a member. His name is Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.

Nocks:

Really?

Cardullo:

And so that book came out and I know it has been widely used in China. My other book and that one you can now buy on Amazon.

[We paused at this point as I had to move my car.]

Cardullo:

Okay. Well, as I said, I'm an inventor. One of my more recent inventions that I described – one which could be used – and it's interesting. A RFID with a GPS and memory we built the size of a small match box size. This can track sometimes for up to eighteen months and then be downloaded. We can reduce the size further to a CMOS.

Nocks:

[Interposing] What's a CMOS?

Cardullo:

Oh, that's a computer chip.

Nocks:

Oh.

Cardullo:

To basically every license plate would have one in. Okay? And basically it has to have a small power supply on it because it's using the GPS. And basically all cars and trucks would have it. Then you would keep track of their location. It would keep track of where it's been, what roads. It passed a transceiver, it would download that information. That information would then be used to charge you for the roads instead of gasoline tax, so that roads would be paid for by the people who use them, by the weight of the vehicle, and that money distributed to the areas where they drove.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

So those people can use that money to rebuild the infrastructure.

Nocks:

So it's a social solution, in addition to being a technological solution?

Cardullo:

That's right. And we built it.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

But, you know, you can't get funding for things. Then the other thing, before I got to the – is my patent's on lighting. Basically, if we look at – and this is the problem I was looking at how to make lights like fluorescent but not fluorescent. Basically, a fluorescent bulb works by ionizing mercury, which produces ultraviolet, which then strikes a phosphor. And that phosphor then emits a proton. Now, if you then take – and I have two patents on this – UV diodes and a light channel, and put a piece of plastic with just phosphor, and you can use different phosphors you can make that informally light up. We built it. About eight years ago, we built many of them that you could use for basically hot houses and stuff like that. But my patent allows it to be – and this newest version was just issued a month ago, [summer 2019] to light up anything. I can make any, anything – if you built a light channel, or if you want to make a television set, where you have that – I mean QELED's also are a version but mine, you can do things like that. And we built it.

And then the other one that I was issued about a year and a half ago is reducing an RFID to 150 nanometers. We were developing that patent, trying to develop antennas because of the so-called Chu limit. And basically, you could take any chip, Intel’s most complicated chip, and break it up into its part, and use it in a coating. And that wall becomes a computer. Or your clothes become a computer, or anything. It allows for ubiquitous-ness of wireless-ness. And you can use basically the movement of the air to generate the power, because it doesn't take a lot of power.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

We have built certain antennas, and then our group broke up because we just didn't have the money to do it all, the $15 million we needed at least. So – at my age now, at 84, I'm saying, look, I've spent lots of money on patents. I'm a footnote. If you ever want to know about who a footnote is, I'm a footnote. But my ideas and stuff are based on an engineer solving problems, and looking at things as a system. So that's what I've done.

Nocks:

It leads me to ask you to talk about – because you have been a teacher as well as an inventor, and there are two parts to this: One is to talk about what you would have to say to young engineers who are embarking on their careers based on these experiences that you've had, and connect it to maybe your experience as an IEEE member. You know, all the people that you've worked with that—

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Well, the interesting thing is I've talked about all my patents. Right?

Nocks:

Right.

Cardullo:

I'm not an electronic engineer. I'm a mechanical engineer.


Nocks:

Right.

Cardullo:

But the tools you get allow you to solve problems, all we do in school, in universities, is teach you tools and give you examples of how those tools are used. Then you must be creative. For instance, my most recent papers, I've used the laws of thermodynamics to solve some very basic financial issues. You see, economics is not a physical science. It's a social science, and we are physical scientists. So, if you use the laws of that, the first and second law of thermodynamics, which is applied – applicable in electronics or anything else, you can show why the markets go unstable.

I was, last year, asked by the Warsaw University to write a paper on my studies of thermo-economics, and I have. It's out there, a 24-page paper. It shows how things are related. So it's not – I'm not an economist. 'm not an electrical engineer. I use tools of thermodynamics, who use to develop rocket engines, to look at economics, electronics, and looking at them as a system. Now, people say, "Oh, well, you know, you are an academic." Well, I'm not really. I am and I'm not. I taught for 16 years. I taught actually for longer than that, if you can count all my lectures. And I've lectured in England, at Oxford, Cambridge, Portugal, Bath, Glasgow, and others, and China for many years. What you learn is how to solve problems, and that's really what it's about. It's not about the first thing I'm doing is thinking on how to make money. Money is important but it's not the prima facie reason for being an engineer. You're there to solve problems and to help society. Yes, some of our things cause societal problems because there is a yin and a yang to what we do.

The purpose of engineering is to solve problems and use the tools that we know from science. And all I can say is also never give up. Never, never, never give up. If you fail, pick yourself up and you start again. The only time you stop is when you're no longer here. And never be afraid to, to do things that people say, “Oh, that can't be done.” Try. Unless they violate the first and second laws of thermodynamics, okay, but basically you can do anything. It just takes time. Sometimes it takes a lot of money. Sometimes it doesn't take a lot of money. Does that answer somewhat?

Nocks:

It sure does. And I, I think – you know, from there I'd like to talk about connections. You – you've talked a lot about making connections between these different fields.

Cardullo:

Yes.

Nocks:

And how that led to certain inventions. I guess I'd also like to talk about making connections in these different fields that has – you know, with people, other engineers, or economists or whatever, who – that, that have led from one thing to another for you.

Cardullo:

Yes. That's a very good point. Everybody you meet, engineers, non-engineers, add to your knowledge base, and you add to their knowledge base. And then sometimes you don't know how that knowledge base – you know how you got it, but you have that information in your head. I'm trying to think back at my own career. Well, look at my studies with the Catholic Church, which are systems engineering studies, which then led me to develop an approach that I used in my teaching on total enterprise assessment. And that was started because I needed a catholic school for my kids which was nearby. And I met different people along the way; bishops, priests, administrators, and each gave me a little bit of information. And then I started to see how this information is connected and you develop the connections. Now, how – for instance, I was looking at a church but I ended up solving a problem on where they wouldn't have enough priests, and locate churches, a series of equations that show how churches are located based on the speed of travel, so forth. One thing leads to another.

It is – to me, it's fascinating. I mean, I'm a history buff. I love history, ancient history primarily. And when you look at history, you look at the various people in it. Now, my family comes from Sicily, not far from Syracuse. Sicily was Greek primarily, and there was a gentleman there in the 300 BC area whose name was Archimedes, and he was a scientist and an inventor. And people like that, where you're looking at Hero of Alexandria with the steam engine, and we think that we have invented it all. We haven't. And so, things come up and it's amazing what you think of.

Nocks:

How do you feel about the training, the education that engineers get in any area? Do you think that it's worthwhile for them to study history the way—

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Yes.

Nocks:

– you have?

Cardullo:

I think it's important. I'll tell you a funny story. I was teaching this class on systems engineering and I was going to make a point about how events cascade and lead to major events. And I said, "How many of you know about the War of Roses?" And everybody raised their hand. I pointed to someone and I said, "Tell me about what you know." He says, "Well, you know, it's a hard-fought divorce case." I say, "No, it wasn't." It was between the Plantagenets and the Tudors. And the Tudors won because one individual who was on the Plantagenets side, Warwick, I believe was waylaid and ambushed, and died. And if it hadn't been for that, the Tudors would never have risen because he was one of the main strategists for Richard III. So that led to that, led to the Tudors, which led now to the Windsors.

Nocks:

And what's interesting about the Tudors, of course, is that – is that you have during that period the development of certain technologies that allowed them to win, like the longbow.

Cardullo:

Yes.

Nocks:

That allowed them to win over really overwhelming odds.

Cardullo:

Well, it's – technology is spread in a funny way. Many know that China has invented movable type and paper and stuff like that, but they invented many, many more things. And during the 15th Century one of the Ming Emperors sent an admiral with a fleet of almost a thousand ships, maybe 10,000 or more people not even on the – no, not a thousand ships, a couple hundred ships. It was 10,000 people they sent all over the world. And one of – at one point they went up into the Red Sea. And at the time there was a canal that connected the Red Sea to the Nile River. And they sailed into that. And then, from there, they went up and sailed into Venice. We know that some of them got off the ship and they had women and all that. And the genetic structure of people in Tuscany show that Asian Mongolian gene.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

But there was a British admiral who wrote a couple of books, one 1434, I think. And he shows that Leonardo Di Vinci's drawings are very similar to the drawings the Chinese had hundreds of years before Leonardo.

Nocks:

Yes.

Cardullo:

So they transferred knowledge and . . .

Nocks:

How do you think that can help? Knowing about that kind of connectedness in history can help engineering students?

Cardullo:

Well, if you're looking for solutions or maybe somebody else has solved it but you don't know that or are given a piece of it. So, don't think only your country or your associates have the answer. It could be somebody sitting in Kinshasa, Africa, who has developed some stuff, but never really gotten a patent, but maybe published it yet. I mean you must have someplace where you know where it is.

And also, there are a lot of different ways of solving a problem because, for instance, take a look at the lighting system I have. Well, I knew that ionized mercury produces ultraviolet, but it also is a very toxic gas. So how do you get around to get something else that produces ultraviolet, and you use that light? I knew somebody had developed a program to analyze EKG's, but it had to be used on a mainframe. So, you chop the problem up smaller and smaller, until you find solutions.

Nocks:

So being aware, doing a lot of reading and whatever of what's gone before you and what's gone just immediately before you is useful to you in your—

Cardullo:

[Interposing] Oh, very much so, very much so.

Nocks:

Right.

Cardullo:

Trying to understand the past, one gets to be able to solve problems in the future.

Nocks:

Sure.

Cardullo:

So, history, archeology, I mean it – -look, the Romans developed waterproof cement and concrete. And that was lost in the middle ages. And all it was, was a mixing of a volcanic soil, tufa they call it, in with that. Now, they didn't have reinforcing bars. They used broken shards of things and rocks. But they mixed it and they made – the Parthenon in Rome has been standing there for over 2,000 years. It's made of reinforced concrete. Okay? There are still underwater piers in the Alexandria Harbor that the Romans built. And they poured the, the cement right into the water, into a form.

Nocks:

Maybe one other thing that's really interesting about these contributions from way in the past from all over the world, connects somehow to the environment that students are working in now, where you're – -you get to study with people from all over the world.

Cardullo:

That's right.

Nocks:

Right? And they have different ways of looking at things?

Cardullo:

That's exactly right. And, with the internet now, you could set up a Skype call or a meeting with people. And I have with China, Australia, and the United States, all at the same time, trying to solve a problem. And it's inexpensive today because of the internet and the interlocking. There was a Jesuit philosopher called Teilhard de Chardin, who said that in the long run, the earth becomes one sphere of interconnection and knowledge. I mean he was in the 20th Century and I had worked with the Jesuit who knew him and lived in the same house with him, who had become the chief statistician of the Jesuits. And, believe it or not, he and I wrote a proposal to the pope to do a management study of the Catholic Church in 1967. Of course, they refused it. They said, "We don't need it."

Nocks:

Yes.

Cardullo:

This was in 1967. But his vision of the world has always struck me as very, very important.

Nocks:

Yes. The last question that I want to ask you is whether you want to talk about the value of being a member of IEEE or other organizations.

Cardullo:

Well, I can talk a little bit about it. Now, I've been a longtime member of the IEEE and what do I use it for? Not only its magazines that I use, but in my writings, I use the research material that's available through the organization and their very vast source of knowledge that's stored there. Today, with the internet, I use something called End-Notes in my writing. I can download references, read them, and see if they're useful, and incorporate them directly. I don't need paper. Today you don't need paper. Now, my wife, God bless her, she is not an engineer, but she uses – prints out everything. I rarely print out anything. I store it on disc and then it's backed up to the cloud.

Nocks:

Mm-hmm.

Cardullo:

The IEEE is a storage system of knowledge. And it – and I've rarely used the interconnectivity going to meetings. I'm not to meet a person per se, but I use the knowledge base and that, to me, is very important. The meetings are very good. I've given them at the IEEE, AIAA, and universities and financial conferences, and it's interesting. My visiting professorship or lectureship at Beijing University, which is the best university in China, was in the business school and the finance department, and I do not have a business degree. I don't have an MBA or a finance degree. My degrees are in mechanical engineering, bachelor and master's, engineering administration, and a Ph.D. in information technology. So, it shows the tools can be used anyplace. Never forget that. And thank you very much.

Nocks:

Thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it.

Cardullo:

It's fine.