No, Hasbro, Hedy Lamarr Did Not Invent WiFi, or Cellphones for the Matter

Image result for ms monopoly hedy lamarr

The Hasbro toy company owns the Monopoly brand and of late its been trying to extend that brand with special editions like the Star Wars Monopoly I got my adult son for Chanukah last year. More recently, they’ve tried their hands at satire, with parody editions like Monopoly for Cheaters, Monopoly for Millenials, and Monopoly Socialism. That last parody hit the mark so close to the bulls’ eye that a socialist college professor went on a Twitter rant about how inaccurately it portrayed his favorite political/economic system. A lot of the special editions are exclusive to the Target chain and after the Marxist professor’s rant went viral, much to his chagrin, I’m sure, Monopoly Socialism sold out on the Target website, with the $19.99 game going for as much as $80 on eBay. I myself managed to find five copies at a local Target, gave one to my son, kept another for me, and flipped the rest, more than doubling my money. I love the smell of monetizing SJW hate.

Hasbro’s latest version of Monopoly isn’t a parody, however. Ms. Monopoly is all about You Go Girlism, encouraging girls to become inventors and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, it perpetuates a number of myths, starting with the canard that women are paid less than men for the same work. That’s the basis for the game’s revised rules which instead of the traditional $200 disboursed to all players when they pass Go, females get $200 while male get 20% less. Also, at the start of the game, females get $2,000 in cash to play with, while males only start with $1,500.

The empirical facts are, howevwer, when normalized for education, experience, and time on the job, the difference between what men and women earn for the same work becomes miniscule, about 1%. Most of the reasons for the old saw that “women make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men” is due to comparing all women to all men, not comparing the same work and then normalizing for the above factors. The simple fact is that it’s been a federal crime to pay men and women unequally for more than half a century, since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. Perhaps it’s silly to point this out, but traditional Monopoly has alwasy been an equal opportunity game, giving all players, male and female, the same starting cash, rewards, and penalties.

Instead of patriarchal capitalist Monopoly, where players invest in real estate, in Ms. Monopoly, players back female inventors and entrepreneurs.

This is where another bit of feminist misinformation comes in to play. One of those inventors, credited by the game with the invention of wifi, is Hedy Lamarr, the actress. The thing is, as brilliant and as beautiful as Ms. Lamarr was, she didn’t invent wi-fi, nor did she invent cellphones, another common misrepresentation of her invention. What Hedy Kiesler Markey (her married name at the time) and avant-garde musician George Antheil patented in 1942 was a method to prevent the jamming of radio-controlled torpedoes by constantly changing the frequency of the transmission. So-called frequency-hopping was not an entirely new idea, it was mentioned by Nikola Tesla in turn of the century patents, and other inventors in the intervening time, but Lamarr and Antheil’s application was indeed inventive and novel enough for a patent to be granted.

Although it appears that during World War II the U.S. Army Signal Corps experimented on a spread-spectrum communication system, the U.S. Navy never used the Lamarr/Antheil system on torpedoes as it considered its clockwork piano roll mechanism for changing frequencies to be too bulky and unreliable. It wasn’t until 1957 that Sylvania was able to revive and the idea, with an electronic controller based on the recently invented transistor. Since then, the Lammar/Antheil patent has been cited numerous times by communications and information processing patents. It’s indeed an important technological concept used in wifi, cellphones, and other communications.

Hedy Lamarr did not, however, invent wifi or cellphones. Wifi as we know it was invented by John O’Sullivan, an Australian engineer while working at the Netherlands’ Dwingeloo Radio Observatory in 1977. No one person invented cellphones. The concept of hexogonal cells for mobile telephones was proposed by Douglas Ring and W. Rae Young at Bell Labs in 1947. Two decades later, Richard H. Frenkiel, Joel S. Engel and Philip T. Porter, also of Bell Labs, fleshed out the idea to include cell towers with directional attennas and many of the protocols now in use. It was Martin Cooper at Motorola, however, who was in charge of making the first handheld cellular telephone, which he used to call his rival at Bell, Joel Engel.

It’s bad enough that boys today get very little encouragement to excel. The female dominated primary and secondary education in the United States seems to regard boys as defective girls, needed to be medicated into submission, and their supposedly toxic masculinity shamed out of them. Does it do our daughters and granddaughters any good to be propped up by mistruths?

As an addendum, since humorless scolds are, well humorless scolds, I should point out that Hasbro has received some criticism from feminists about Ms. Monopoly. It seems that an early version of the game was created by Elizabeth Magie, patented in 1904 as The Landlord’s Game. A number of variants were developed over the first three decades of the 20th century. In feminists’ telling of the tale, Charles Darrow, is the villain. In the early 1930s, Darrow developed an Atlantic City, NJ version of the game we know, named it Monopoly, and sold it to Parker Brothers, becoming the first millionaire game developer long before anyone heard of Nintendo or Playstation.

Darrow today is regarded by the woke crowd, though, as having unjustly stolen the credit, and possibly the wealth he got from the game, from Magie. Magie, however, was a follower of a collectivist ideology called Georgism and she created The Landlord’s Game as an act of anti-capitalist political activism. Also, whatever patent rights she had were long past expired when Darrow created Monopoly. Finally, The Landlord’s Game is not identical to Monopoly. It appears that Darrow more directly borrowed from a variant of Magie’s game created by a Ron Jarrel, of Delaware, which has elements of both games.

Maybe, then, it’s appropriate that Ms. Monopoly credits Hedy Lamarr for an invention she didn’t actually create, as many people today credit Monopoly to a female inventor who didn’t exactly create that either.

21 Replies to “No, Hasbro, Hedy Lamarr Did Not Invent WiFi, or Cellphones for the Matter”

  1. AvatarScottS

    Another “I had no idea” moment!

    Women have plenty of notable accomplishments to draw from I don’t see the need to contort history to fit a narrative in a simple board game. Misinformation like this needs to be corrected.

    Reply
  2. AvatarGreg Hamilton

    Excellent article. Bonus points for mentioning Nikola Tesla. Although my Schul welcomes everyone, your opinions would not be in the majority. Should this article be called Monopoly in Depth?

    Reply
  3. AvatarNewbie Jeff

    “I love the smell of monetizing SJW hate.”

    Haha… I wish I had had the idea of selling those Che Guevara posters to college students. I need to get ahead of the trend. Maybe a Bernie Sanders poster? Captioned with a quote like, “if you write a bestseller, you can be a millionaire, too”. I’ll add the usual corporate woke-speak, such as “company is minority owned” [I’m 1/64th Choctaw], and “5 percent of all profits go towards organizations that support civil rights” [NRA]

    Reply
  4. AvatarNorman Yarvin

    What is used in WiFi and in cell phones today isn’t even frequency hopping. You don’t broadcast on narrow frequencies that you’re hopping between; you broadcast a signal that is spread spectrum to begin with and yet doesn’t interfere with the other signals sharing the same band. Then you do lots of math at the other end to sort the signals out from one another. (Well, more in cell phones than in WiFi; the latter shares channels mostly by each device taking its turn rather than via simultaneous use and fancy math.)

    The first and second generations of cell phones used narrow frequency bands, but didn’t hop between them (except to move from tower to tower). Frequency hopping would have added to their security, but they didn’t bother.

    A lot of cordless phones do use actual frequency hopping.

    Reply
    • AvatarHarry

      My CO had his name on some sort of patent related to spread spectrum signal discrimination, (my apologies if my vocab is incorrect) he was very proud of it!

      I was very young at the time, but I remember it hitting me then just how many people it took to make anything work. Shoulders of giants and all that. For the most part no one person invented anything.

      My wife has her name on a patent related to inkjet printing technology from her time working a summer job with her dad at Mead. She can’t tell me the first thing about it. Not classified or industry secrets, just can’t remember a thing about it.

      Reply
  5. Avatarbluebarchetta

    I’m sure history would recall Ms. Lamarr much more favorably if not for her ill-fated 1874 land grab at Rock Ridge, using a gang of rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists to overrun the townspeople.

    She’d have been successful, too, if not for the efforts of Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid.

    Reply
  6. Avatar-Nate

    ‘HR Scolds’ ~

    That’s funny .

    In the late 1980’s at the 24th street Sanitation Yard where they did heavy overhauls and hydraulic rebuilding for the trash trucks, there was a Woman who worked a desk, she had male pin up photos plastering the walls, I’m guessing the Men there had an issue with this as she didn’t work in the office, he desk was on the landing at the top of the stair case leading to the men’s bathroom….

    No one complained about her pictures that I ever heard of .

    -Nate

    Reply
  7. Avatarnightfly

    It’s not “the first game where women make more than men.” For one thing, it’s all fake money. For another, in any regular Monopoly game, the player who owns it all at the end wins, regardless of their sex. And finally, in actual tournament play the tournament winner is paid more than the runners-up – again, regardless of sex.

    Reply

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