A brief history of Fibre Optics

While fibre technology has become ubiquitous in today’s modern telecommunications networks, did you know that fibre optic technology has been around for a very long time and is quite simple in concept.

Glass dates back to around 3000BC and the Romans were drawing glass into fibre as early as 27BC. So while fibre has become an everyday technology ranging from medical to telecommunications to entertainment applications, you can see from its history that fibre has come a very long way in a very short time.

The following is an historical chronology of some of the key milestones with regards to fibre optics.

~3000BC
Earliest known making of glass in the Bronze Ages.

~27BC
Romans draw glass into fibre.

1840s
Jacques Babinet guides light in water and bent glass rods.

1888
Bent glass rods used to illuminate body cavities for medical purposes.

1920s
Microscope illumination achieved using bent glass rods.

1931
Mass production of glass fibres conceived.

1951
First discussions of using transparent cladding on glass or plastic fibres.

1959
American Optical draws fibres so fine they can only transmit a single mode of light.

1960
First lasers demonstrated.

1966
Charles Kao indicates that fibre losses could be reduced to below 20dB per kilometre for office to office communications.

1967
Corning starts making high-loss fibres. Research into sing titanium doping and silica cladding commences.

1970
Corning develop single-mode fibre with losses of 17dB per kilometre by using titanium doping. Also first room-temperature, continuous-wave semiconductor lasers made.

1971
Bell Labs, University of Southampton and CSIRO in Australia experiment with liquid-core fibres.

1973
Diode laser lifetime reaches 1000 hours.

1975
First non-experimental fibre optic link installed by Dorset police.

1976
First fibres manufactured with low loss of 0.47 dB per kilometre. Lifetime of lasers reaches 100,000 hours (10 years).

1977
Bell Labs extrapolates 100-year lifetime for diode lasers.

1978
First Fibre Optic Con trade show held in Boston.

1980
Fibre system carries video signal for Lake Placid Winter Olympics. 9.5km submarine cable lay in Loch Fyne.

1981
Canada trials fibre optics to homes in Manitoba.

1982
MCI prepares to lay single-mode fibre from Washington to New York.

1984
First fibre optic submarine cable laid to Isle of Wight by BT.

1986
English Channel fibre optic service commences.

1988
TAT-8 becomes operational as first transatlantic fibre optic cable.

1996
One trillion bits per second transmitted over single mode fibre.

1997
FLAG (fibre optic link around the globe) went into service spanning over 28,000kms and offering 10Gbps services.

1998
Large effective are fibres are introduced.

2000
Sumitomo Z-PLUS Fiber, was introduced with lower attenuation of 0.168 dB/km

2002
Z+ Ultra low loss Pure Silica Core Fibre with much lower attenuation was demonstrated in 2002

2006
Ribbon fibre cable is introduced to increase fibre core counts in smaller diameter cables.

2009
Bend insensitive (G.657) fibre introduced.


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