|Hedy Lamarr 1914-2000|
Friedrich insisted Hedwig attend the lavish parties held in their home. Their guests included the infamous Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and their military and scientific cohorts. For four years, Hedwig learned about the science involved, listening to the scientists and other professional experts expound on the latest military technology and Nazi weaponry. But she grew to hate the Nazis and her husband, longing to escape, and one day, disguising herself as her maid, escaped to Paris (1937), where she met MGM's head, Louis B. Mayer. By the time they arrived in America by boat, she had a movie contract, a new name as Hedy Lamarr, and a new life.
Mayer promoted Hedy as the "world's most beautiful woman," and she would eventually make 25 films, starring with Hollywood's greatest. She was both beautiful and talented. But Hedy knew there was more to life than being glamorous and relishing the limelight. "Any girl can be glamorous," she said. "All she has to do is stand still and look stupid." Moreover, her experience in Germany continued to plague her. The world was fast approaching the outbreak of World War II, and as more German submarines torpedoed the passenger ships in the Atlantic, she began to wonder if she could help.
In 1940 she met composer George Antheil and shared her idea for an invention she thought could help the Navy. She had already setup a special room in her home, complete with a drafting board, engineering books, special lighting, and tools. As she explained to George, she knew that radio-controlled torpedoes went off course if someone jammed the signal. However, if the transmitter and receiver were made to "hop frequencies" simultaneously, she believed, one could avoid jamming the signal. In other words, a signal couldn't be intercepted and classified messages could be transmitted and received in secret.
George's background in synchronizing more than a dozen player pianos worked on the same principle, by hopping from one note to another. Together they combined Hedy's idea with Antheil's piano technology (he added a coded ribbon), and two years later (1942) they filed a patent for a Secret Communication System, or as it became known, Spread Spectrum Technology.
1942 diagram in patent
(under Hedy's married name at time)
The Navy did eventually appreciate the invention's value, twenty years later during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. But today her invention is everywhere, and it's hard to imagine our lives without Spread Spectrum Technology. Below are some of the technologies impacted:
(I don't know about you, but this list really surprised me!)
- Fax machines
- Cellular phones
- Wireless LANS
- Bar code scanner
- Palmtop computer
- Radio modem
- Digital dispatch
- Computer data
Copyright 2015 © Sharon Marie Himsl