By John Hooper Jr., Porta Phone Co.
The question in the back of every head football coach’s mind hasn’t changed since wireless headsets first replaced wired sideline telephones decades ago:
“How do I know that the signal of my wireless system won’t be interfered with by the other team or picked up by somebody other than my staff?”
It is widely perceived today that each football program enjoys exclusive use of its own unique operating channel to overcome the threat of interference. Unfortunately, in a world where wireless products are exploding in popularity there are only a finite number of channels available and certainly just a fraction of what are needed to go around. The solution to this paradox can be attributed to a technique called “Frequency Hopping”, a specialty wireless technology that originated just prior to World War II. Frequency Hopping is a military protocol that is utilized by today’s most effective wireless systems and guarantees coaches’ conversations remain totally secret. Ironically the concept of Frequency Hopping was devised not by electronic engineers, but of all people a movie star actress. The story of how this has all come about is intriguing, historical and important for coaches to understand.
In 1940, the free world was readying to wage war against Hitler’s mighty German army. An issue the Allies faced was how to prevent the Nazi’s from jamming radio-controlled torpedoes rendering the weapons ineffectual. One evening at a late-night party, actress Heady Lamarr and her friend, George Antheil, a musical composer, invented a technique to keep the wireless signals that were to guide torpedoes both secure and totally discreet. Lamarr utilized Antheil’s musical composition sheet as a guide to outline her concept of a Frequency Hopping wireless system. Her idea was that a transmitter and receiver should use multiple frequencies instead of just a single channel. If transceivers could be made to move to particular frequencies in synch according to a random pattern, there is no way the communication between them can be deciphered. Put simply, if a signal is hopping from frequency to frequency, every fraction of a second it cannot possibly be detected or intercepted.
On the football field, Frequency Hopping is what allows multiple wireless headsets to share the same set of frequencies without the possibility of interfering with each other. In order to visualize how this actually operates think of two coaching staffs each running Frequency Hopping headset systems with their wireless signals bouncing like a ball from frequency to frequency every fraction of a second.
Since each system has a unique hopping sequence and only “lands” on channels that are clear they can easily work in harmony. Frequency hopping signals are in essence constantly jumping or moving and it is this agility that that allows coaches conversations to carry on uninterrupted while also remaining completely private.
Lamarr and Antheil ultimately patented their Frequency Hopping protocol that was improbably created on a cocktail napkin. Today their revolutionary Frequency Hopping concept has become the driver at the heart of the most robust football coaches’ headsets. As more wireless products are being added to the Friday Night Lights landscape every year there is an ever-increasing threat of interference that coaches’ headsets need to successfully avoid. This makes Frequency Hopping a critical feature for coaches and a prerequisite in the design of today’s most effective football coach’s wireless headsets.
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