Mar 21

“The Mother of Wi-Fi”: Hedy Lamarr

It isn’t often that a revolutionary invention comes around that changes the way the world functions for the rest of time. Sometimes, these inventions become so intricately intertwined and normalized in our culture that the public doesn’t know who invented them or even think to look it up. This is the case for our National Women’s History Month spotlight — Hedy Lamarr.

We can thank Lamarr in large part for our ability to listen to music through Bluetooth speakers and headphones, the ability to mindlessly scroll on social media, and to have all the information in the world at our fingertips. Many minds have come together to make these concepts realities, but Lamarr is the woman who created the communication technology that paved the way for later minds to build on them and create the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth we use today.

Lamarr was a well-known Austrian-American actress during the 1930s and 1940s but grew up learning from her father about the inner workings of machines, in which she developed a keen interest. Deciding to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who was a concert pianist, she stepped into the spotlight of Hollywood at the age of 16. The American audience adored her stage presence, but she knew that her success in films would not last long and she felt a stronger calling toward innovation and invention.

During Lamarr’s relationship with Hollywood businessman and pilot Howard Hughes, he would give her equipment to work on during filming. Fueled by the support of her partner, she would often work on inventions between takes! During this time, Lamarr created several inventions, the most notable of which came toward the beginning of WWII. As the U.S. was about to enter the war, Lamarr said she “…did not feel very comfortable, sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state.”

Lamarr had knowledge of munitions and weaponry, so she, with another innovative mind in Hollywood, George Antheil, came together to create a communication system used to guide torpedoes toward their targets in war. The revolutionary aspect of this creation was the use of frequency hopping. Frequency hopping among radio waves prevents the interception of other radio waves, allowing the torpedo to find its intended target most efficiently.

Lamarr and Antheil were able to gain a patent for their invention, but the Navy decided against implementing it. So, instead of using the system to directly influence the war, Lamarr used her celebrity status to sell war bonds. Her commitment to her nation’s war efforts in innovative ways is beyond admirable, so it is unfortunate that Lamarr never received money from her invention before its patent expired.

Recognition did, however, eventually come her way. She received the Pioneer Award in 1997, just three years before her passing. Additionally, in 2014, Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which led to the coining of the title “Mother of Wi-Fi.”

Thank you, Hedy Lamarr, for showing us that being curious, instinctually following your passions, and wanting to make the world a better place bring innovation that truly changes the world.

Sources: National Women’s History Museum

About Kikoda

We are coders, problem solvers, and innovators. Our clients are our partners—their business priorities are ours, so when they succeed, we succeed. Our teams are known for their exceptional responsiveness and approachability, ensuring that we provide effective solutions that align with our clients’ requirements, budgets, and timelines.

As a client-focused technology company that excels as an end-to-end partner, Kikoda offers a wide range of comprehensive technology services. Our expertise includes custom software development, product idea-to-market, team scaling, cloud and platform solutions (IaaS, PaaS), data analytics, and creative services.

Serving our clients since 2016, Kikoda is a rapidly growing, Florida-based company composed of experienced software engineers, analysts, and designers. Our commitment to growth and innovation is evident in our mission to deliver the most effective technology solutions to our business partners.