City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics

Paperback | October 22, 2004

byJeff Hecht

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City of Light tells the story of fiber optics, tracing its transformation from 19th-century parlor trick into the foundation of our global communications network. Written for a broad audience by a journalist who has covered the field for twenty years, the book is a lively account of both thepeople and the ideas behind this revolutionary technology. The basic concept underlying fiber optics was first explored in the 1840s when researchers used jets of water to guide light in laboratory demonstrations. The idea caught the public eye decades later when it was used to create stunning illuminated fountains at many of the great Victorianexhibitions. The modern version of fiber optics--using flexible glass fibers to transmit light--was discovered independently five times through the first half of the century, and one of its first key applications was the endoscope, which for the first time allowed physicians to look inside the bodywithout surgery. Endoscopes became practical in 1956 when a college undergraduate discovered how to make solid glass fibers with a glass cladding. With the invention of the laser, researchers grew interested in optical communications. While Bell Labs and others tried to send laser beams through the atmosphere or hollow light pipes, a small group at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories looked at guiding light by transparent fibers. Led byCharles K. Kao, they proposed the idea of fiber-optic communications and demonstrated that contrary to what many researchers thought glass could be made clear enough to transmit light over great distances. Following these ideas, Corning Glass Works developed the first low-loss glass fibers in 1970. From this point fiber-optic communications developed rapidly. The first experimental phone links were tested on live telephone traffic in 1977 and within half a dozen years long-distance companies were laying fiber cables for their national backbone systems. In 1988, the first transatlanticfiber-optic cable connected Europe with North America, and now fiber optics are the key element in global communications. The story continues today as fiber optics spread through the communication grid that connects homes and offices, creating huge information pipelines and replacing copper wires. The book concludes with a look at some of the exciting potential developments of this technology.

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City of Light tells the story of fiber optics, tracing its transformation from 19th-century parlor trick into the foundation of our global communications network. Written for a broad audience by a journalist who has covered the field for twenty years, the book is a lively account of both thepeople and the ideas behind this revolutionar...

Jeff Hecht met his first laser as a Caltech undergraduate in 1968, and took a while to figure out what it was good for. In his case, it was a lot of words--he's been writing about lasers and optics for the past thirty years.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.68 inPublished:October 22, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195162552

ISBN - 13:9780195162554

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Building a City of Light2. Guiding Light and Luminous Fountains (1841-1890)3. Fibers of Glass4. The Quest for Remote Viewing: Television and the Legacy of Sword Swallowers (1895-1940)5. A Critical Insight: The Birth of the Clad Optical Fiber (1950-1955)6. 99 Percent Perspiration: The Birth of an Industry (1954-1960)7. A Vision of the Future: Communicating with Light (1880-1960)8. The Laser Stimulates the Emission of New Ideas (1960-1969)9. "The Only Thing Left Is Optical Fibers" (1960-1969)10. Trying to Sell a Dream (1965-1970)11. Breakthrough: The Clearest Glass in the World (1966-1972)12. Recipes for Grains of Salt: The Semiconductor Laser (1962-1977)13. A Demonstration for the Queen (1970-1975)14. Three Generations in Five Years (1975-1983)15. Submarine Cables: Covering the Ocean Floor with Glass (1970-1995)16. The Last Mile: An Elusive Vision17. Reflections on the City of LightAppendix A. Dramatis Personae: Cast of CharactersAppendix B. A Fiber-Optic Chronology

Editorial Reviews

"The technology of optical-fibre communications is arguably one of the most spectacular developments of the late 20th century. It touches all of our lives on a daily basis, and has created the worldwide communications that we all take for granted and that we expect to supply all our futureneeds. It is surprising, then, how little attention this remarkable story of fibre optics has received. This book makes an excellent start at redressing the balance. It provides for the first time a complete chronicle of the technology over the last 150 years, concentrating on the years to 1983. . .. This book will show you how this position has been achieved, who the main characters were, and how they were inspired by visions of the future that we now occupy. All in all, the author presents a wonderfully rich story that has been painstakingly researched and contains some excellent sourcenotes."--Physics World