The Fibre-optic Revolution
Digital cables carrying messages at the speed of light have given a new lease of life to telecommunications, internet marketing and digital televisions.
The amount of information now transmitted – mobile signals, fax and computer data as well as telephone calls - was straining the copper-cable system to the limit.
Fibre-optic cables, with their high capacity, small size and freedom from electrical interference, are the key to development.
The first uses of optical fibres was in medicine in 1955, for lighting up parts of the inside of the body. The light loss through the fibres was at first too great for many other uses. But in 1966, Dr Charles Kao and Dr George Hockham, two scientists working in Britain at the Standard Telecommunications Laboratories, discovered that the loss was due to impurities in the glass. By 1970, an American firm, Corning Glass, had produced fibre optics good enough to transmit telephone signals.
Fibre-optic cables are now gradually replacing copper ones between exchanges. The first transatlantic fibre-optic cable, TAT-8 - jointly laid by American, French and British companies - began service in 1988. Its capacity of around 40,000 simultaneous telephone calls is three times as great as the seven existing copper transatlantic cables put together.
The new 4G network will revolutionize and advance the use of mobile and wi-fi computing. Able to stream high amounts of data will mean that television, films and online video can be watched live (without the need for download or buffering). And this is just the start. This high level of broadband will allow for ‘real time’ applications to become available for those of us on the move, without the need for updates all the time. What this will mean for, for instance, hearing about traffic congestion, road works, accidents on our GPS systems will be up to the second, and not, as we now find, out of date before we get it.
Telephone calls are sent along fibre-optic cables as strings of 1’s and 0’s (digital code) represented by light switched on for 1, off for 0. Millions of digits can be sent each second. Light is faster than speech, so numbers of messages are interwoven in the vacant gaps between signals.
Seeing round corners
A fibre-optic 'image guide' is rather like a bee's eye, which sees a whole picture through about 9000 tiny lenses. The guide is a cable carrying about 27,000 glass fibres, each finer than a human hair. They can transmit light to inaccessible places and reflect an image back to the eye.
Doctors use image guides for internal examinations or for surgery, and engineers to look inside engines.
Good and Bad Design Agencies
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