Sir Charles Kao in the Lab at STL in 1966
Rare film of Charles Kuen Kao, pioneer of optical fibre communications, experimenting with a prototype single mode fibre at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in 1966.
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Optical fibre has transformed our world
Optical Fibre annihilated the cost of communicating over global distances, and so enabled the World Wide Web.
The alternative technology was Long Haul Microwave Waveguide (A big hollow pipe), which was being developed as several laboratories around the world. This would have been impractical for undersea, so would have severely limited its global application.
Optical Fibre Communication was invented in the early 1960’s, at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories, in Harlow in the UK.
Charles Kuen Kao was the visionary who pioneered the use of a single mode dielectric (glass) optical fibre waveguide for long distance communications. This was at a time when the losses of the best available glasses made the idea seem impossible to almost everyone else. In recognition he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics:
“for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication”
He was part of a team at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories who went on to develop optical fibre systems into a practical reality.
In 1966 he and his colleague George Hockham published the paper which is now recognised as the beginning of the optical fibre revolution:
Here is a link to the full paper, (Copyright: the Institution of Engineering & Technology) “Dielectric-fibre surface waveguide for optical frequencies”, by K.C.Kao & G.A.Hockham, Published in the Proceedings of the IEE, in July 1966.