Jun 172012

FiOS came to our house a couple of weeks ago. FiOS, the Verizon Communication”s glass fiber link to the Internet, to telephone networks and, if desired, to television broadcasts.

Men with the aid of cleverly designed machines laid cables from an access point high on a “telephone” pole down into the earth, then totally underground across a neighbor”s meadow, through a stand of pines, then under our gravel-covered driveway, through an asparagus patch to, and then through, the concrete wall of our basement and from there to our telephone and personal computer on the next floor.

What flows through this cable? Electricity? No, it is laser-generated light traveling in a glass fiber thinner than an uncooked spaghetti, and carrying human voices, trillions of “bits” of computer data, television pictures, and music in all its splendor. So, what do we get from this wondrous technology?

The computer is somewhat faster; the voices on the telephone are a little clearer; and for me personally, FIOS brings a great measure of satisfaction, even vindication. Fifty years ago I wrote in a technical market report and in a comprehensive article that “communication on light beams is going to be an important application of lasers, those newfangled gizmos whose name is derived from Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation:”

“…Communication by light may require ‘light pipes” because light (and infrared radiation) are attenuated by water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere. As envisioned now, gas-filled pipes buried in the ground will serve as trunk lines between major information centers.”

Some readers voiced skepticism about my predictions, even ridicule.

Gas-filled pipes in the end were not necessary because my former employer, Corning Glass Works, invented flexible fibers of glass so pure that it channels light over very long distances with hardly losing any intensity, ergo FiOS.
1 MASERS and LASERS, A New Market With Enormous Growth Potential
Emil B. Rechsteiner and Robert L. Saxe; Technology Markets, Inc. May 5, 1962.

2 Lasers: A Dynamic New Industry, Emil B. Rechsteiner, Technology Markets, Inc.
in November 1962 Issue of Industrial Research, Beverly Shores, Ind.