Hedy Lamaar, Co-Inventor of the Concept for FHSS Patent Shelved by the Navy. Now the basis for WIFI, Bluetooth, and GPS.
Hedy Lamarr, born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914, was an Austrian-born American actress and inventor. While she is primarily known for her successful acting career in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s, Lamarr also made significant contributions to the field of technology, particularly in the development of a communication system known as Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS).
During World War II, Lamarr saw how Nazi U-boats were easily dodging Allied torpedoes. She asked a simple question: why can’t they change course mid-trip? Signal jamming was the answer. Along with composer George Antheil, they devised the concept of FHSS to overcome this problem. Antheil pondered the 88 keys on a piano keyboard and married it to the available radio frequencies. Lamarr and Antheil proposed a system that could change the frequency of communication rapidly and unpredictably, making it challenging for enemies to intercept or jam the signals. They received U.S. Patent No. 2,292,387. The Navy rejected the idea and shelved it. It took until 1957 when the concept was taken up by Sylvania Electronic Systems, and in 1962, it was used in military communications systems on U.S. ships sent to blockade Cuba.
The Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology developed by Lamarr and Antheil involved the use of a synchronized mechanism that hopped between different radio frequencies in a predetermined pattern. This hopping pattern allowed the transmitter and receiver to remain synchronized, enabling secure communication even in the presence of interference or intentional jamming.
Although their invention was not immediately implemented during the war, the concept of FHSS laid the foundation for modern spread spectrum communication systems. In the following decades, FHSS technology found widespread application in various fields, including military communications, wireless networks, and ultimately played a crucial role in the development of modern technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
While Lamarr’s contributions to FHSS were not fully recognized during her lifetime, she received posthumous recognition for her groundbreaking work. In 1997, she and George Antheil were jointly awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award for their pioneering invention of FHSS, acknowledging their significant impact on modern communication systems. Hedy Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, some 14 years after her death
Heddy Lamarr’s legacy extends beyond her acting career, as her innovative thinking and contributions to technology continue to shape the wireless communication landscape to this day. Her work serves as a reminder of the extraordinary potential for creativity and innovation that can be found in unexpected places.
George Antheil, an avant-garde composer known for pieces such as Ballet Mécanique and Airplane Sonata, had numerous other interests in addition to composing. After becoming friends with Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr in 1940, the two found themselves discussing issues related to war time, including torpedoes.
From Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) To WIFI
802®: Unleashing the Power of Technological Connectivity and Beyond
For over four decades, the groundbreaking efforts of IEEE 802 Working Groups have reshaped the landscape of technological connectivity, revolutionizing the way people live, work, and communicate. At the forefront of this transformative journey lies the influential 802 family of standards, with one ubiquitous technology leading the charge: wireless local area networks (WLAN), better known as Wi-Fi.
Tracing its roots back to the original IEEE 802.11™ standards, this remarkable technology incorporated the visionary FHSS patent of the renowned inventor, Hedy Lamarr, even after its expiration in 1959. In 1997, the IEEE ratified this standard, utilizing the 2.4GHz radio frequency band and operating at data rates of 1 or 2 Mbps. True to Lamarr’s vision, the signal seamlessly hopped between frequencies, transmitting data efficiently and effectively.
Today, amidst advancements like Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) that mitigate signal interference and enhance the signal-to-noise ratio, FHSS continues to reign supreme, embodying ruggedness and reliability. Its reach extends far and wide, finding applications in diverse domains, from walkie-talkies to remote-controlled transmitters and receivers for model cars, boats, and drones.
Experience the unwavering legacy of 802® and its continuous pursuit of innovative connectivity solutions, taking technology far beyond what was once imagined.
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