Posted by Lori Ayre on February 18, 2007

I'm a big fan of CSI:NY (and CSI:Miami). I have an HDTV and a fabulous satellite signal so the images are incredible. I enjoy the colors and textures of the city shots and the ability to see the pores, freckles and sometimes bad make-up on the actors' faces.

I also enjoy the gizmos they use to solve crimes. They seem to have machines that do whatever they need: wrist watch opener uppers, inventories of munitions scheduled for destruction each day, amazing photo enhancers, animated crime scene re-enacters (-ors?), beeping, buzzing, whirring, wonderful machines that can report the little plot of land from which dirt clots came. And, all of their data repositories are interlinked, have freakishly handy and cool interfaces, and are never lacking any data elements. There's ALWAYS a photo, address and history of every person they are looking for (whether they are in prison, rehab, the military, or whether they are a contractor, lawyer, or alarm installer).

The point is, I know it isn't real.

Still. The February 7 episode went too far. The storyline involved someone hiding an RFID reader in a $25,000 purse. Let's call that the perp purse. The badguy (actually the bad girl) would set the perp purse next to the target purse and the RFID would slurp up all the personal information it could find in the target purse and store the name, address, phone numbers, credit card numbers, driver's license numbers, and who knows what else in its database.

The way it worked was unlike any RFID reader I've ever seen and which I'm pretty dang sure doesn't exist. You see, the RFID reader in the show had super magic powers and could read the data on magnetic stips like those on the back of credit cards and drivers' licenses. That just doesn't work.

RFID readers read radio signals. Magnetic strips don't have radio signals. They have magnetic strips. That's why you have to swipe them.

I guess its like anything, when you know a bit too much about something, it takes all the joy away. I can let me imagination run wild with most of the CSI gizmos but I have to draw the line with the Amazing RFID Reader That Reads Magnetic Strips. Sigh.