In 1981, GEW (then Siemens) travelled to the remote fishing area of Mile 108 on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia and was ready to field test GEW’s new experimental data hopping system. In Pretoria, South Africa, a message was being received over a secure line from the vehicle stationed in Mile 108. The vehicle contained a unique combination of specialised equipment and custom software that had never been used in this configuration before – the Siemens T1000 teleprinter, an ARQ data modem, a 1 kW power amplifier and an ingenious piece of GEW software. 1 846 km away from its counterpart, the T1000 teleprinter, the rudimentary user interface of this system, started to print a set of lowercase letters and at that moment, GEW made history!
This moment was significant in many ways. For the first time, data was transmitted via frequency hopping. At the time, technology existed to broadcast voice transmission in this way, but this was the first time this technique was used to relay data. GEW now made it possible to send data securely by using spread-spectrum signals that were difficult to intercept or jam, as it was nearly impossible to estimate or determine the channel sequence. This was also one of the first steps towards automation via a secure data link, were instructions could be transmitted to a system remotely. The system could then execute the instructions automatically, which meant that tasks that were previously performed by operators, could now be performed automatically with more precision and speed. This feat paved the way for geographically distributed EW systems – which would one day become one of GEW’s core focus areas.