Did you know, how an exotic actress from Vienna, considered as the most beautiful woman in Hollywood in the 1940’s, really helped in inventing wireless? It is not the exact truth, but the facts around it are no less fascinating as they involve Hollywood, remote control technology, and World War II Axis Powers.
How did the exotic actress help with the development of the technology?
The Vienna actress named Hedwig Evva Maria Kiesler, also known as “Hedy Lamarr,” once did patent a “Secret Communication System” for radio, which mainly meant to foil the axis during the World War II. The specific design of the communication system was supposed to work as a remote control system in guiding the torpedoes while having problems of jamming. However, Hedy Lamarr’s core idea became part of the broader concept of frequency-hopping, which reflected in her device that she developed along with the composer George Antheil.
How did her inventions were reinvented?
The world long forgot her inventions until its rediscovery by a researcher in the year 1997. It made it clear that her ideas were truly ahead of her time. The principles behind her invention became a footstep for the development of the broad spectrum communication technology that we enjoy in our present times. Her ideas helped in creating a wireless technology called Bluetooth, which is after the name of the 10th-century Scandinavian king.
Events during the WWII
The National Inventors’ Council recruited Americans to provide some ideas to foil the Axis Powers. The Council demanded that the technology must have encoded communications and encryption systems.
Hedy Lamarr submitted her idea of the radio-controlled torpedo, which she invented in collaboration with George Antheil. The device used the system of frequency hopping to transmit and receive the communicative rate through a continually changing frequency channel, making it difficult to detect or jammed by the predators.
She invented the idea of a torpedo communication system that utilizes a piano roll similar to a punch tape. It created signals within 88 varied frequencies of the radio spectrum in a particular sequence known only to the receiver and the transmitter. The hopping frequencies made it difficult for the enemy to intercept and jam the signals, making it easy to control the torpedo throughout the journey.
Lamarr and George presented the idea of this technology to the Council in 1940. But the Council members never listened to what a pretty face actress wanted to share with them. They ignored both Lamarr and George, even though later, it proved to be a useful and practical device that is used by the people of modern times.
Also, the U.S. military used the same idea of “Secret Communication System” during the Cuban missile crisis. And, nowadays, the same concept is being used all over the world through various wireless technologies.
How did this idea of Secret Communication born in her head?
Hedy Lamarr was married to Friedrich Mandl, a wealthy Austrian ammunition dealer. Although she had everything just like every other princess, she was sort of a prisoner in her castle-like home in Austria. Before freeing herself from her husband, she attended several meetings with the military leaders, engineers, scientists, and business people along with him. Just then, Lamarr thought of enhancing her skills in mathematics, weaponry knowledge, and in science to understand more of her husband’s work. From there, she had this idea of developing a system that can not be located or jammed by the enemies.
Recognition of Lamarr’s contribution
Later in the year 1997, her contribution to the world was recognized. She got awarded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with a “Pioneer Award.” She also got a prestigious Bronze Bulbie Gnass Lifetime Achievement Award. She became the first woman to win the Academy Award of inventors.
In the year 1998, Wi-LAN Inc. purchased a 49% stake in Lamarr’s patent in exchange for some amount of the company stock, which was never revealed in public.
After creating the sketch of the Secret Communication System, she contributed to World War II. Indeed, she didn’t make the technology, but she did patent an idea that proved to be useful to date.