Feeds

Hollywood siren invented key phone tech TRUE

New book reveals Hedy Lamarr's contribution to Wi-Fi, CDMA

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Here's a fascinating notion: that sultry Hollywood sex goddess Hedy Lamarr invented radio technology employed by every mobile phone in use today.

The tech in question is the notion of spread-spectrum frequency hopping, a concept devised by Lamarr during World War II after learning German U-Boats had sunk a cruise ship and drowned 90 British schoolkids.

Lamarr grew up in Vienna - as Hedwig Kiesler - the daughter of a banker with an interest in all things technological. His interest rubbed off on his offspring, but rather than pursue a techical career - probably impossible in that era - Lamarr became an actress.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr in The Conspirators (1944)
Source: WikiMedia

Her plan: to create a radio guidance system for torpedoes that could be used to sink submarines. She foresaw high flying aircraft firing off torpedoes and steering them toward enemy warships.

To prevent the signal from being jammed by the target, Lamarr figured that the communication between aircraft and torpedo would rapidly jump from one frequency to another. Jamming would affect the signal only briefly before the signal frequency changed and both controller and controlled weapon would be communicating again.

Hedy Lamar's patent

Lamarr and Antheil's mechansim, from US Patent 2,292,387

According to author Richard Rhodes, who details the story in a new book, Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, Lamarr knew of a pianist and mechanics boffin named George Antheil. His contribution to the story: devising a way to keep the radios within the aircraft and the torpedo synchronised while the frequency changed.

Lamarr and Antheil received US Patent 2,292,387 for a "Secret Communications System" in 1942. Antheil worked out that a consistent, pseudorandom frequency hop sequence could be generated using the engine from an automatic player-piano.

Lamarr and Antheil pitched the plan to the US military but the notion proved impossible to realise with the technology of the time, and so it was never put to use attacking enemy submarines.

Hedy Lamarr

But the concept of frequency hopping would later find use in wireless networking, allowing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular communications where the technique is used to overcome interference. It's the basis of the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phone system. ®

Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World is published by Doubleday & Co, and is available in e-book and hardback.

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
EE accused of silencing customer gripes on social media pages
Hello. HELLO. Can EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE HEAR ME?!
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
Broadband slow and expensive? Blame Telstra says CloudFlare
Won't peer, will gouge for Internet transit
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?