Ground breaking inventions can come from anyone. Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-born actress who invented and patented (with George Antheil – a composer) Spread Spectrum and Frequency Hopping radio for interference-free radio.
She had escaped to the US from Nazi Germany. In Hollywood she recognised that US Navy radio-controlled torpedoes could not be jammed if the radio signals used rapidly changing, random but repeating frequencies. The concept emerged from Antheil’s work synchronising many roll piano players in a “symphony”. She created frequency hopping between 88 frequencies (the number of keys on a piano keyboard) using piano rolls to generate the “random” frequencies. Although not adopted by the US military until the 1960s (during the Cuban missile crisis), it remained classified until the mid-1980s.
This invention is one of the most cited in US patent history and is today the foundation of CDMA, WiFi, GPS and other radio technologies that today we take for granted and make our wireless life possible.
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