To come into fruition, fiber optic communication required a number of innovations and insights over the past 5500 years. Today, optical-fiber cables carry over 80 percent of the world’s long-distance voice and data traffic. As industry leaders, we believe knowing the history of fiber optics as a whole helps us develop future products. After all, you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Because of our own long record in business, Fiberguide is an innovative partner to our growing OEM customer base, providing a variety of photonics solution.
Let’s take a closer look at the long and fascinating evolution of fiber optic communication.
In 3500 B.C., man-made glass was invented in eastern Mesopotamia and Egypt. But it wasn’t until 100 B.C. that the blow pipe was invented in Syria. After that, glass blowing, which allowed glass to be more easily manipulated and even drawn out into fibers, spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire.
In the 1790s, the Chappe brothers in France invented the “optical telegraph,” a message-relay system of lights mounted on towers. In the 1840s, physicists Daniel Collodon and Jacque Babinet showed light could be directed along jets of water for fountain displays. It was British physicist John Tyndall who demonstrated in 1854 that light could travel through a curved stream of water, proving light could be bent.
In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell patented the photophone, an optical telephone system, and William Wheeler developed an “apparatus for lighting dwellings or other structures,” a system of pipes lined with a highly reflective coating and an electric arc lamp in the basement as the light source. It would be another fifty years, however, before Heinrich Lamm transmitted an image through a bundle of optical fibers.
In 1961, Elias Snitzer of American Optical published an article explaining how one could develop a single mode fiber with a core so small it could carry light with only a single wave-guide. Nine years later, scientists at Corning Glass works brought this theory to life with a single mode fiber with attenuation less than 20dB/km. That same year, 1970, Bell Laboratories scientists Morton Panish and Izuo Hayashi, along with a research group from the Ioffe Physical Institute in Leningrad, develop a semiconductor diode laser able to emit continuous waves at room temperature.
1977 was a big year in optical fibers. In April, General Telephone and Electronics (GTE) tested and deployed the first telephone fiber-optic system in Long Beach, California, running at 6Mbps. Bell followed in May, installing in downtown Chicago an optical telephone communication system covering 1.5 miles (2.4 km). Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Fiberguide was founded as a specialty optical fiber manufacturer focused on corporate, government, and university research customers involved in cutting-edge nuclear, medical, industrial, and energy development who required non-standard fibers and fibers with a variety of specialized coatings.
We are proud of our long history of industry innovation and leadership. To learn more about Fiberguide, visit us at fiberguide.com/about-fiberguide/#history today!
Author: Kevin Rauscher