The Eudaemons comprised a small, but utterly brilliant, group of students from the University of California who invented a device that was meant to tell them the winning numbers on the roulette wheel. The group took their name from the philosophy of Eudaemonia with its associated concepts of excellence, virtue and the highest human good (so “noble” were their efforts). And so these are brilliant young entrepreneurs used the technology that was available to them in the late 1970s and set out to bust the casinos. Supposedly, the aim was to establish funding for the scientific community. We’re not sure whether we buy that: we think they just wanted to get rich.
During one particularly research intensive summer, two students decided to track the motion of the roulette wheel/ball using a camera, an oscilloscope and some complex trigonometric formulas. The calculations were fairly complicated, and the students knew that were they to find a successful system predicting the motion of the roulette ball on the wheel, that they’d need to package it in a system that was compact, concealable, yet thoroughly effective.
They divided the roulette wheel into a series of eight octants, and by inputting certain variables and essential data, the device was purported to predict with a fair amount of accuracy the final result of the wheel. Data input was effected via tapping the big toe on a micro-switch in one’s shoe. This sent a signal to an output system that was strapped to the chest, covered by one’s shirt. This output system had three solenoid actuators (a device that converts energy into motion). These actuators would vibrate on various predetermined quadrants of the stomach to alert the user to the particular roulette octant he or she should bet on. In total, the system took around two years to develop. It took two people to make the contraption work in practice: a bettor and an observer. The observer’s job was to tap input signals with the foot, while the bettor would receive the output signals via the strap across his chest. The process didn’t always going very smoothly, however, and at one sitting a particular solenoid malfunctioned and burnt a hole into the bettor’s skin.
Ultimately, the Eudaemons disbanded: many were busily juggling fairly hectic academic schedules and their “extracurricular” efforts weren’t quite as profitable as they’d hoped. The burning incident, in particular, was severe enough to cause two of the group’s principal two leaders to disband. Together, the Eudaemons amassed around $10,000, and the principle upon which the group was founded seemed to be at least partially successful (though nowhere near as lucrative as the MIT blackjack crew who in the early 1990s took some of the major casinos on the Las Vegas strip for much more money).
The Eudaemonic Pie is a much fuller version of the story. Written by Thomas Bass, the book details some of the teething problems experienced by the group, as well as the workings and partial success of their system. Roulette is a tough game to beat, something the Eudaemons learned firsthand.