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When Was Fiber Optics Invented? Origins & History

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Fiber Optic

Fiber optic cables can be used to connect to the internet, send voice messages and images, and watch cable television – all at the speed of light. The fiber rods for the cables can be made from glass or plastic and are way faster and more effective than older copper wires. Unsurprisingly, over the years, fiber optics technology has allowed telecommunications and the internet to develop better products and services. But exactly when were fiber optics invented?

Fiber optic cables have actually been around since the mid-1800s. However, they weren’t nearly as advanced as modern forms. It started with very humble roots. In 1880 Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) invented the photophone, an interesting device that allowed the transfer of sound (his voice) on a beam of light. This idea sparked further experiments from engineers and scientists over the next few decades.

magnifying glass 2 divider Fiber Optics in the Early 1900s

Clarence Hansell, John Baird, and a handful of other scientists demonstrated in the 1920s that simple images could be transferred via glass tubes over short distances. Their discovery was confirmed when in 1953, physicists Harold Hopkins & Narinder Kapany were able to transfer an image that measured over 75 centimeters using over close to 10,000 glass fibers.

Seven years later, in 1960 Narinder Kapany would invent the term “fiber optics” and publish it in Scientific American. This article would have a tremendous impact on society and help to introduce the concept worldwide.

Fiber Optic
Image Credit: Pixabay

Fiber Optics in the Mid and Late 1900s

Over the next several decades, many fiber optic advancements were made, allowing data to be transferred at greater speeds and distances. In 1965, Manfred Borner invented the first fiber optic data transmission network, which is what we call fiber optics today.

Though still very primitive in comparison to modern fiber optic technology, it allowed for an uninterrupted stream of data without corruption or loss. Fiber optics became more advanced and had more uses in the late 90s. In 1988, fiber optic cables were used to link the United States and France, making it the first transatlantic fiber-optic cable used for communications.

magnifying glass 2 divider Wrapping Things Up

As the internet gained popularity and increased usage in the 2000s and 1990s, it was clear that traditional data transfer methods, such as copper cables, were not sufficient to handle the volume of traffic and the speeds that were demanded by consumers.

Fiber optical technology was later developed and implemented to solve the problem of speed, data bandwidth, and dependability. To this day, fiber optic cables are constantly being improved, as their speeds are always increasing to keep up with the current demand for fast communication devices without interruption.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.