CS457/CS546: Computer Networks II
WAN Technologies and Techniques

Winter 2001 Assignment 1

Technology: Wireless Transmission

The Birth of the Spread Spectrum Technique

At the beginning of World War II, the technology for creating remote, radio controlled planes or torpedoes existed but it was never used primarily because it was very easy for an enemy to jam or even take control of the system.

In 1941, Hedy Lamarr, a well-known actress of that time period and her American composer, George Antheils, thought up a scheme to control armed torpedoes over long distances without the enemy detecting them or jamming their transmissions while at a dinner party. Their 'Secret Communications System' was a radio frequency hopping scheme that could be controlled by piano-roll strips and formed the basis of what is now known as spread-spectrum communications.

Diagram from the original schematics for Hedy Lamarr and George Antheils' patent.

While they had the foresight to patent their invention on June 10th, 1941, the term of the patent expired without either of them profiting from their invention, they never received any compensation because of the 17 year expiration of Patent right, nor any formal awards for their invention. Although there was talk of such recognition for Hedy Lamarr, after George Antheil's death in 1959, from the Congress and IEEE, she demurred from accepting because she wasn't willing to appear formally in public.

First page from their original patent application.
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