Chapter 11 Fiber Optic Timeline
Fiber optics is often regarded as a recent development, perhaps because of
its role in the backbone of the Internet. Actually, the historical roots of this
technology stretch back to the Victorian era; it has only been within the
past few decades that diverse technologies such as high speed electronics,
semiconductor solid state lasers, and low loss glass optical fibers have
come together to form the fundamentals of modern optical communication
networks. There are several excellent references available which describe
the early development of this field in detail; for our purposes, we will
only note a few significant milestones along the way. The concept of a
global communications network, with all the associated concerns about
privacy, security, taxation, and electronic marketing scams, dates back
to the development of telegraph networks in the 1800s [1]. The notion
of using light as a communication medium may have been adapted from
even earlier signaling methods using bonfires, smoke signals, mirrors, or
telegraphs with movable arms; indeed, light guiding through water was a
well established phenomena at this time [2], although it was considered
little more than a parlor trick with no practical applications. Following the
development of the telephone, in 1880 Alexander Graham Bell proposed
a wireless communications technology using modulated sunlight which
he dubbed the photophone [3].
Despite the lack of commercial success for this product, the concept
of optical communication and the tools to make it a reality continued to
be pursued by many early pioneers in the field. All of the basic concepts
for optical fiber communication were outlines by C.W. Hansell as early
as 1927, in a patent designed to transmit images over bundles of glass
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