[TowerTalk] Hedy Lamar and SS

Larry Essary larry at pulse.net
Mon Dec 31 10:16:17 EST 2007

 For more background info on the development of SS technology, Google <Hedy Lamar>*, the 40's screen actress.  In 1942 she and her publicist, George Antheil, developed and were granted a patent for an early form of frequency-hopping encryption to provide anti-jamming for radio-controlled torpedoes.  (I'm finished with this OT topic.)

Gene Smar  AD3F

Since the subject of Hedy Lamar and SS was raised I thought that you might be interested in this.

Larry - WA5WWH

Subject:Hedy Lamar
From:Larry Essary <larry at pulse.net>

Not exactly your typical nerdy inventor with a pocket protector.

Hedy Lamar is best known as the incredibly beautiful and sexy 
screen siren of the World War II era. In modern Wayne's World 
speak, she was babelicious.  Yet, perhaps the most fascinating
part of Lamar's life had absolutely nothing to do with her 
beauty or film career.  Hedy Lamar is almost certainly the 
only Hollywood star that had claim to a patent on a significant
technological breakthrough - one that has become the basis for
modern communications.

Lamar was frequently quoted as saying, "Any girl can be glamorous.
All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."  She may have
played that role on the silver screen, but when it came to real life, 
Hedy proved that brainpower was everything.

Before examining her important contribution, let's take a quick 
look at her background (in case your memory has failed you, or,
as in my case, you are too young to have ever known):

First of all, Lamar was only her stage name. She was actually 
born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria back on 
November 9, 1913.

As a teenager, Hedy attended acting school and quickly made the
transition into films. Like most movie stars, her first few films
were forgettable.  Yet, the one that she made at age seventeen made
her an international star.  A very controversial star, that is.
In the 1933 Czech film Ecstasy, Lamar acted in a steamy love scene
and appeared nude in a 10-minute swimming sequence.  That was 
definitely not the thing to do.  While mild by today's standards, 
her nudity was considered morally unacceptable at the time, and 
the film was banned in the United States for several years on charges
of indecency.

In 1933 (at age nineteen), her parents placed her into an arranged 
marriage with an Austrian armament manufacturer named Fritz Mandl. 
Mandl was the type of shady character who would sell arms to anyone,
even if it meant selling them in violation of the Versailles Treaty.

Of course, to make these deals, Mandl had to entertain all of his
prospects.  This included attending hundreds of dinners with the 
likes of Hitler and Mussolini.  And what would a business dinner 
be like without Mandl's gorgeous and equally famous wife dazzling
these arms developers, buyers, and manufacturers?  But, as we will 
soon learn from the outcome of this story, Hedy did not just entertain 
these men.  She listened carefully and learned a great deal.

To an outsider, Hedy had everything.   She was married to one of 
the wealthiest men in Europe. She lived in the famous Salzburg castle
where the Sound of Music was filmed. Add to that all the clothes,
jewelry, servants, and cars (one 1935 Mercedes owned by Mandl sold
for over $200,000 several years ago) one could ever want.  It sure 
sounds like the ideal life to me, but it was not.

Hedy became more of a trophy than a wife to Mandl.  He was a control
freak and would not even let her go swimming without his supervision. 
After four years of marriage, Hedy could take no more. She decided to

In her first attempt to see if she could get away, Mandl followed her.
She was forced to sneak into a club that had peep shows upstairs. 
Hedy paid off the attendant to keep his mouth shut, but Mandl paid
even more to get in. Hedy was forced to hide in one of the rooms.
While in there, a male customer came in and assumed that she was
the lady he had hired.  Without going into all of the details, 
Hedy was forced into the position of making love to the man to 
avoid her husband (she claimed that he was banging on the door).

During her real escape, Hedy supposedly drugged (that old trick - 
3 sleeping pills in the coffee) the maid that was assigned to her,
put on a maid's uniform, and walked out the service entrance to 
freedom. Hedy eventually made it to London where she appeared on
the stage.

Hedy hopped aboard the ship Normandie on a cruise for Hollywood 
and stardom.  She signed a contract with MGM's Louis B. Mayer
while on the boat, but he insisted on a name change to avoid
the controversy from Ecstasy.  At this point, MGM publicist 
Howard Strickland (according to a 1970 NewYork Times article)
approached Hedy and handed her a typewritten list of last names
and asked her to make a choice. You guessed it - she chose Lamar
and the rest is Hollywood history.  Lamar was immediately crowned
the most beautiful woman in the world by MGM and quickly became 
one of Hollywood's glamour gals. Which leads us to the real focus 
of this story - her incredible invention.

First, I must introduce you to the other lead character in this
story, George Antheil. Antheil was Internationally famous for 
his mechanistic avant-garde musical style.  When Antheil moved
to Hollywood, he became a film composer and a syndicated columnist
for Esquire magazine, for which he also contributed articles on 
romance and endocrinology.  He even published a book on the subject
- the 1937 Every Man His Own Detective: A Study of Glandular 
Endocrinology.  What made him an expert on this subject one will
never know.  Maybe it is because, according to my hormone laden 
teenage students, that if you say "pianist" very quickly, it sounds
just like "penis". Since they sound so much alike, one can only 
conclude that being an expert in the first makes one knowledgeable
in the latter.  Well, maybe I am stretching it a wee bit here…)

In the summer of 1940, Lamar sought out Antheil. They were 
neighbors in Hollywood and supposedly met at a party. The story
goes that Hedy did not want to see Antheil about his music. 
Lamar wanted to consult Antheil about glands - her mammary 
glands to be specific.  Lamar wanted to find out how she could
enlarge the size of her breasts. (Doesn't this part of the story
smell kind of fishy? - Only two articles actually makes this claim.)

Very quickly, it became clear that Antheil didn't have the answer
(those toxic silicone implants had not been invented yet), so 
the topic of conversation changed to the impending war and
torpedoes.  Lamar feared Hitler (remember that she actually 
knew the guy) and began to talk about an idea that she had for
the radio control of torpedoes.  At the time, radio control 
sounded like a great idea, but was not practical.  All one had
to do was jam the particular frequency that the torpedo operated
on and the missile would fail to reach its target.

Lamar was sitting at the piano with Antheil when that flash
of genius struck her.  Antheil was hitting keys on the piano 
and she would follow.  It became clear that Antheil was 
changing the keys that he was hitting, yet he was still able
to communicate to her.  What if this could be translated into
radio control for a torpedo?

The next day they sat on his floor and figured the whole 
scheme out.  Lamar realized that the frequency needed to
randomly change so that the enemy could not jam it. Any 
attempt to knock out the signal controlling the missile 
would only knock out a small blip of the communication 
stream and have virtually no effect on its overall control. 
Hence, the concept known as "frequency hopping" was born.

Of course, getting this grand scheme to actually work was
another story.  Keep in mind that this was the time of 
large vacuum tubes, not the miniaturized microprocessors
that rule our world today.

Antheil offered the solution to the problem. He had previously
composed his Ballet Mechanique, which was scored for sixteen
player pianos to perform at the same time. He suggested using
punched piano rolls to keep the radio transmitter and torpedo
receiver in synch. The transmitting signal was designed to 
broadcast over a band of eighty-eight possible frequencies
- one for each key of the piano keyboard.

It took Lamar and Antheil several months to work out the exact
details of their invention. Then, in December of 1940, they 
sent a description of their idea to the National Inventor's 
Council(set up by the government to get ideas from the general
public).  Very few of the hundreds of thousands of submissions 
that the Council ever received actually caused any kind of 
excitement, but Lamar and Antheil's did.  Under the direction 
of the Council's chairman (and inventive bigwig over at General
Motors) Charles Kettering, the government helped to improve on
the concept. Patent 2,292,387 for the "Secret Communication 
System" was granted on August 11, 1942.  (The patent is actually
under her married name at the time - Hedy Kiesler Markey.)

Unfortunately, other members of the council were less than 
enthusiastic.  There's no surprise here - just think about the
feasibility of placing a synchronized player piano mechanism 
into a torpedo and having it operate properly.  The Navy declared
the mechanism too cumbersome and shelved the idea.  The concept
of frequency hopping was too far ahead of its time.  Lamar and
Antheil pursued their invention no further. Yet, Lamar was still
able to help out in another way - by selling war bonds.  As part
of one promotion, anyone that purchased $25,000 worth of bonds 
could get a kiss from Lamar (would Pamela Anderson do the same
today?). She was actually able to sell $7 million worth in one night.

Not all great ideas are forgotten, however. In 1957, engineers at
the Sylvania Electronics Systems Division, located in Buffalo, 
New York, used transistor electronics to accomplish the goal 
that Lamar and Antheil had set out to conquer years before. 
Finally, in 1962 (three years after the Lamar/Antheil patent
expired), the concept of frequency hopping was used by the United 
States government in the communication systems placed aboard ships
sent out to blockade Cuba.

Today, the concept is not only used by the military (it is used 
in the Milstar defense communications satellite system), but has
also become the technology behind the latest in wireless Internet 
transmission and the newest cellular phones.  A quick search 
of the United States Patent Office shows 1203 patents dealing 
with frequency shifting (now called "spread spectrum") between
1995 and 1997. How much influence the Lamar-Antheil patent 
has had, if any, on this technology will probably never be known.

Lamar never earned a penny from this invention that so many
others have profited from.  Instead, she slowly faded from public
view.  She was married and divorced six times between 1933 and 
1965 to Fritz Mandl, Gene Markey, Sir John Loder, Ted Stauffer,
W. Howard Lee (who later married actress Gene Tierney , and 
Lewis J. Boles.  In 1966, Lamar made international headlines
when she was arrested for shoplifting in the May department 
store in Los Angeles, but was acquitted by a 10-2 jury vote.
The bad publicity from this incident coupled with her controversial
autobiography "Ecstasy and Me" (purportedly ghost written and not
approved by Ms. Lamar) brought an end to her movie career.

On March 12, 1997, Hedy Lamar was finally honored by the 
Electronic Frontier Foundation for her great contribution 
to society.  Her son Anthony Loder accepted the award for 
his mother and played an audiotape for the audience - the first
time she had publicly spoken in over two decades.

Sadly, Hedy Lamar passed away on January 19, 2000 at her 
Casselberry home in Florida. The bulk of her nearly three 
million dollar estate was willed to her two children, but
a portion was left to her former personal secretary and
to a friend.  Most surprisingly, however, was that she 
bequeathed $83,000 to a local police officer who had befriended
her in the last years of her life.  Lamar asked that her
ashes be scattered over the Vienna Woods, near where she 
was born in Austria. In one of those weird twist-of-fates, 
that same son Anthony today owns a Los Angeles phone store
in which half of the phone systems that he sells are based
on his mom's pioneering technology.

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