Did you know that the original idea and patent that led to cellular phone technology comes from the movie star, Hedy Lamarr?
She knew a great deal about weaponry by listening to her first husband, Fritz Mandl, an armament manufacturer. She left her husband when he became increasingly involved in deals with the Nazis and made her way to London, then on to Hollywood.
She'd kept her mind active on what she'd heard about the problems of radio controlled missiles and how easy it was to block the simple signal. She realized that if the signal jumped from frequency to frequency quickly (like changing channels on a TV or radio) and both sender and receiver changed in the same order, then the signal could never be blocked by someone "listening in" who didn't know how the frequency was changing.
In those days before the transistor was invented it was difficult to design a way for this to be accomplished. Composer George Antheil suggested using something similar to piano rolls, from player pianos, to keep both sides in synch. Together, he and Lamarr patented the "Secret Communication System" in 1942. At that time the idea of using the paper rolls was too cumbersome to be practical.
When the transistor did become available the Navy used the idea in secure military communications and when transistors became really cheap the idea was used in cellular phone technology. By the time the Navy used the idea, the original patent had expired and Lamarr and Antheil never received any royalty payments for their idea.
In 1997 she was honored with an award at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference for "blazing new trails on the electronic frontier." Hedy Lamarr died on January 19, 2000.
Source: The Associated Press, March, 1997
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