In Addition To Being …
… one of Hollywood’s classic sirens, actress Hedy Lamarr was also crazy smart.
How smart? Smart enough to develop the tech allowing you to send mobile photos of dancing cats, cute babies and dumb skater guys faceplanting on concrete to your friends. She also came up with the tech supporting the device that allows you to to send incredibly inappropriate text messages and to check sports scores when you really should be talking to your wife at dinner.
You can thank her now.
Writing in Salon, Laura Miller takes up the tale of how Lamarr and avant-garde composer George Antheil invented the process by which remote-controlled torpedoes could evade signal-jamming attempts by the enemy. The process, which was critical to the WWII war effort by the Allies, was patented and is now essential to the wireless and cellular communications now used by everyone and their dog.
Here’s the nut graf:
“The Navy buried the patent for various complex reasons, but Lamarr and Antheil’s invention was eventually dusted off and employed in a variety of military and civilian communications systems during the 1950s and onward. (If you use Bluetooth devices, you use frequency hopping.) For a while, the actress and the composer had more or less forgotten the patent, which expired in 1959. Later, Lamarr would occasionally complain to the press, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that she found a champion in Dave Hughes, a longtime member of the online community the Well (now owned by Salon). He brought her achievement to wider awareness and, in 1997, she received a Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”