Fiber Optics - Internet, Cable and Telephone Communication

Fiber optics is a medium that uses glass or plastic fibers to transmit data in the form of light sent in intervals along long distances. Information is sent as pulses of light that must be repeated at various points. Fiber optic lines can carry much more information at a time than traditional wires. The ability of fiber optic lines to carry digital data has significantly contributed to advances in digital communications because glass fibers are less subject to interference. Fiber optic cable is more expensive and harder to install and maintain and that often hinders its use in some communities.

Optical communication has a long history of development that can be traced back to the 1790s when an optical telegraph designed by the Chappe brothers in France used lights mounted on poles to relay messages. In 1854, John Tyndall discovered that light signals could be bent using streams of water. Alexander Graham Bell designed and patented an optical phone in 1880 called a photophone. However, his earlier telephone was more within the technical capabilities of that period. For the next hundred years, advances would continue in the use of light manipulation for use in a variety of applications.

Heinrich Lamn introduced the idea of transmitting images through fiber optics in 1930. His image was that of a light bulb filament he expected to use to look into the human body. However, he was unable to obtain a patent for his idea because earlier patents by Baird for using glass rods for television and Hansell’s patent to use glass rods for facsimiles were already on record. The first bundled fibers were introduced in the mid-1950s and microwave and laser technology soon followed. The 1970s led to emerging technology to purify light strands able to transmit data more efficiently and by the late 1970s and early 1980s, telephone communications began rebuilding their infrastructures to depend completely on fiber optics. In 1991, the fiber optic crystal was developed that transmits data through diffraction much more efficiently than internal reflection. With the FLAG fiber-optic cable being placed across the ocean in the late 1990s, the infrastructure was in place for the expansion of the internet and worldwide digital communication. From the late 1790s thru today, the technology of using fiber optics has influenced society in an endless variety of industries as well as personal communications. In addition to telecommunications, military, medical, industrial, broadcast industries, data storage, and security networks are part of the expanding number of industries that rely on fiber optic technology.