Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi. Thank Hedy Lamarr for these technological marvels.
Born Hedwig Keisler in Austria in 1914, Lamarr grew to become an actress. She married a man who later produced weapons used by the Nazis, but she hated both the Nazi's cruelty and, eventually, her husband. She wanted to escape both, and that’s just what she did. After a stealthy escape from Austria she ended up in Switzerland, then London, and finally Hollywood. Once in Hollywood she changed her stage name to Hedy Lamarr, and proceeded to become one of cinema’s leading ladies.
But Lamarr was more than just a movie star. She was also mathematically talented and had a passion for engineering. Her interest in inventing was such that she set up an engineering room in her house, complete with a drafting table and a wall of engineering reference books.
With the outbreak of World War II, Lamarr wanted to apply her skills to helping the war effort. Motivated by reports of German U-boats sinking ships in the Atlantic, she began investigating ways to improve torpedo technology.
Lamar met composer George Antheil, who had been experimenting with automated control of musical instruments, and together they hit on the idea of frequency hopping. At the time, radio-controlled torpedoes could easily be detected and jammed by broadcasting interference at the frequency of the control signal, which would cause the torpedo to go off course. Frequency hopping essentially served to encrypt the control signal because it was impossible for a target to scan and jam all possible frequencies.
It took the US Navy twenty years to become interested in applying this groundbreaking technology. Then they used it on military ships during a blockade of Cuba in 1962. However, of greater import to you and I is that Lamarr and Antheil’s frequency-hopping concept serves as a basis for the spread-spectrum communication technology used in GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices.
Unfortunately for Lamarr, her part in the development of this technology wasn’t recognised until 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave her an award for her technological contributions.
Thanks Hedy :)