Modern battlefield communications are often coded through a process called “Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum” (FHSS.) In short, a transmission is spread over a wide number of frequencies at extremely short intervals, so if you are listening to any one frequency, all you’ll hear is a series of unintelligibly short bursts some time apart.
During World War II, inventors Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler and George Antheil approached the Department of the Navy with a special adaptation of FHSS technology for guiding torpedoes. At the time, Navy torpedoes used a single-band radio frequency to find and guide themselves toward targets (ships) but the target was often able to detect and jam the signal. However, using FHSS the signal is extremely difficult to detect, and almost impossible to jam. The idea would have made American guided torpedoes nearly unbeatable. The patented invention used a simple roll similar to that used on a player piano to operate the system. Unfortunately, the Navy rejected it. Some said that the Navy procurement officers could not understand how you would fit a piano on a torpedo (in reality, the device could have fit in a matchbox.)
A more likely explanation stems from the fact that the inventors were already well-known, but not as inventors. George Antheil was a successful composer (which perhaps explains the officers’ inability to rid their minds of the image of a whole piano as part of the invention.) The other inventor was even more famous. Hedwig Kiesler was the well-known actress “Hedy Lamarr.”She was the first actress to appear nude in a major feature film (the Czech film, “Ecstasy,” in which she was also depicted as having an orgasm – scandalous in that day.) In spite of this bit of infamy, she became a Hollywood staple, often referred to as “the most beautiful woman in pictures.”
If the Navy had adapted the invention, U-boats would have been far more vulnerable and less effective. As a result, many Allied ships would have been spared attacks from the German “wolf-packs.” The war would likely have ended much earlier, saving lives on both sides. Certainly, desperately needed civilian aid to Allies, particularly Britain, would have made it safely across the Atlantic, alleviating unnecessary suffering.
Some (if not most) modern historical analysts believe that Hedy’s sex-kitten image (and the simple fact she was a woman) prevented the Navy from taking the invention seriously.
Bias can be a very costly thing indeed. It cost us, it cost the British citizenry, and it cost Hedy Lamarr: though she had many other very successful inventions, the brilliant beauty never saw a dime from FHSS, because the US Navy only adopted it in 1962 — after her patent ran out.