Hedy Lamarr

There’s a documentary on Netflix about Hedy Lamarr.  The first time I heard of her was on the recent Bill Nye Saves the World show.  The documentary goes deeper into Lamarr’s life but mainly focusing on her adult life as a movie star and inventor.  One of her biggest contributions is the invention of the “frequency hopping system.”  She hoped that this system would be able to increase the effectiveness of radio controlled torpedoes in hitting the intended targets during World War 2.

The system works using a broad spectrum of radio frequencies.  By syncing the frequencies on the torpedoes and the submarines, commands can be given to the torpedoes over the broad frequencies that allows the submarine to perform corrections as the torpedoes are enroute to an enemy ship.  An simpler analogy might be those classic music boxes.  If you can imagine the sound from the music box as a “command” and the tone/pitch of the note as the “frequency.”  So that as the tone/pitch changes, the command is sent out to the torpedo.  Unfortunately, because of bias as well as technological difficulties, Lamarr’s invention was never implemented until after the war.  Even more unfortunate, Lamarr wasn’t given credit for her work until late in her life which by then the technology had been adopted into a wide number of technologies.   As the documentary goes, her invention is to become the foundation for wifi, bluetooth, cell phone, GPS and other military technologies.

How about that!



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