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What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say 'Light'? Perhaps the Sun, bulbs, candle lights (if you come from that part of the world where electricity comes and goes) and so on.
Since the year 2015 has been proclaimed as the year of light and light based technologies, in this blog I give a very brief history of light based communication. Light has been used for communication for eons; be it in a form of complex imagination of receiving a message from the Sun God or by sending signals via beacon fires and smoke for warfare to semaphore and Aldis lamp.
However, the fiber based light communication is much recent.
The principle of total internal reflection, the foundation for fiber optical communication, was first demonstrated by Daniel Colladon and Jacques Babinet in Paris in the early 1840s. A revolution in optical communication technology started in 1880 when Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his first experiment on a photophone. This device used an audio signal that was encoded on a beam of light. In the 1920s, experimental work began which attempted to transmit light through an uncladded silicon rod.
The introduction of the cladded optical fiber in 1950s allowed for a large amount of optical power to be propagated through the core of the fiber. However, optical waveguides were deemed impractical because of their very large optical attenuation on the order 1000dB/km. In 1966 Charles K. Kao and George Hockham showed that the attenuation in fibers available at that time was due to contaminants, rather than by fundamental physical effects and demonstrated that glass could achieve losses of approximately 5 dB/km. In 2009 Kao was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this innovation.
The availability of low loss fibers has ushered in a new era for optical communication such that now optical fiber communication systems have connected continents and reached our homes. I am posting this blog from Mainz, Germany and you might be reading it in places like Morocco, Hawaii, or even Nepal, my hometown, all thanks to those great minds who have spent their lives making future a reality and of course thanks to light!