Charles Kao working on ‘communication by guided light’ in 1966
Originally uploaded by benroome
A little bit of a digression for this blog, but it was a delight to see Charles Kao awarded with the Nobel prize for physics. His breakthrough was to demonstrate that optical fibres could be used to transmit information over large distances if they could be made ‘clear’ enough.
If you’re interested in the history of the development of optical fibre transmission, and the context of Kao’s work, you can’t do much better than read Jeff Hecht‘s excellent City of Light. (In fact, Jeff Hecht is the guy to turn to for information on much of optics; he’s one of the world’s great science communicator’s.
At the time, Kao’s paper – co-written by Georg Hockham – theoretically predicted an information carrying capacity for optical fibres of more than 1 gigacycle per second (we call that Gigahertz, GHz, now). This was equivalent, then to over 200,000 phone calls. Well with digital transmission, and our latest optical transmission technology, we can now carry the equivalent of more than 52 million phone calls. That’s when Nokia Siemens Networks puts 80, 40Gbps WDM channels down a single optical fibre.
The IEEE has written up a great piece on this news, where you can download Kao and Hockham’s original paper.
If you’re interested in seeing a copy of the press release issued by Standard Telecommunication Laboratories Ltd. in the UK from January 26th, 1966, announcing Kao’s paper and presentation to an IEEE meeting on January 27th that same year, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org