Welcome to a world of secret communication, arms trading, mobile phones, film
stars, piano players, nudity in the woods and one of the most unusual sources of
revolutionary new technologies ever. This is the story of the birth of a new communication
technique called spread spectrum and how it has evolved to impact our lives today.
It is also the story of a forgotten patent and its two unlikely inventors.
Spread spectrum is a technology that was first developed to provide secret radio
links - mostly for the military. More recently it has found many other uses. You
are, in all probability, already using this stuff when you make a cordless phone
call or when your PC is wirelessly connected to a network. And you will be using
it more and more as the new generation of mobile phones roll into the market. One
day your fridge might use it to order some replacement yoghurt! This book tells the
tale of spread spectrum: what it is, where it came from, and how it is used today.
Hedy Lamarr was lauded by Hollywood as the most beautiful girl in the world.
She made a whole series of films, starring with the big names of the forties. Yet
behind all of this, behind a face that launched many young boys into manhood and
enslaved many an older man, lay an inventive and fertile brain. Miss Lamarr was the
first woman to appear naked on the silver screen. She was also, with George Antheil,
one of the first to patent a technology which has shown itself to be an essential
solution to secret communication via radio and to the sharing of increasingly busy
George Antheil was the self-named "bad boy of music." Born at the beginning
of the twentieth century he played his piano all the way to Paris and there became
the darling of the avant garde. He composed music that shocked and amazed. His Ballet
Mecanique is written for a host of mechanical pianos, accompanied by electric bells
and a propeller - it caused riots. He became an expert on glands and wrote a book
which predicted the course of the second world war.
Hedy and George's idea, first patented in 1942, was initially shunned. Yet,
in the decades that followed, the basic principle was reinvented, refined and put
to practical use in all manner of radio solutions, solutions that the inventors could
never have imagined. The technique that they described is now called frequency hopping.
It was before its time in the 1940s, but now has pride of place in a whole family
of related solutions that are generally called - spread spectrum.
This book traces the many strands that led to the invention and that follow
from it. The true source of the idea may have been Fritz Mandl, Hedy's first husband
and an unscrupulous arms trader. The book traces his origins and those of his dubious
trade. The invention relies upon the use of radio, so the book traces the origins
of this technology and the inventive leaps that enabled its use in mobile telephony.
The patent actually describes a novel method of controlling torpedoes so the development
and use of these deadly underwater missiles in the first and second world wars is
traced. Most importantly the river of technology which followed the invention is
investigated. After the second world war most of the work on spread spectrum was
carried out in the deepest secrecy - finding uses in military communication, submarine
detection and spy planes over Vietnam. This book explains what happened from early
exposure in the Cuban crisis through to its current application in connecting computers
together and in the third generation of mobile phones.
Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil lived interesting and varied lives. This book
explains the phenomenal breakthrough that they achieved, and how they have added
a touch of glamour to a whole new branch of communication technology. Surrounding
it all is a mystery: just how did a successful Hollywood film star and a prolific
composer, each with no technical background whatsoever, come to invent something
so important? Why was the patent ignored for so long, and why did Hedy fail to mention
it in her autobiography? What is the real story behind the origins of spread spectrum?
Hedy and George did not benefit from their invention. But their seminal work
is now becoming widely recognised. It is celebrated in this book, the first to explain
the significance of spread spectrum in non-technical terms. This is also the first
book to take a close look at the lives of both inventors, to unravel the threads
that drew them together and remove some of the mystery that surrounds the discovery.
The book is written by someone who has the necessary background and ability
to take on such a varied and challenging project.