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Glass, light and the information revolution

Glass, light and the information revolution
Glass, light and the information revolution
The ability of glass to transmit light has been known for many centuries and the majority of its uses depend on this property. The fact that the efficiency of optical transmission is quite low has not been a serious disadvantage because the glass thickness is usually small, often only a few millimetres. Recently, however, there have been two developments of profound technological and sociological importance. First, certain types of glass can be made to have unprecedented purity and transparency. Second, glass fibre structures have been devised which provide a flexible guiding path under practical working conditions. The result is an optical transmission line which is light (in weight) strong, and extremely small, yet capable of carrying vast quantities of information over hundreds of kilometres without amplification. The effects are far-reaching. For example, the use of copper wire and electric currents in the trunk telephone network is being abandoned in favour of glass fibres and light. Parallel developments in microelectronics provide an increasing ability to store and process information. Technologically advanced countries, including our own, are thus in the throes of an information revolution, the effects of which will be as profound as those of the industrial revolution two centuries ago. Increasingly, paper, and even travel, will give way to telecommunications so that services such as electronic mail and electronic newspapers will become commonplace.
0017-1050
179-187
Gambling, W.A.
70d15b3d-eaf7-44ed-9120-7ae47ba68324
Gambling, W.A.
70d15b3d-eaf7-44ed-9120-7ae47ba68324

Gambling, W.A. (1986) Glass, light and the information revolution. Glass Technology, 27 (6), 179-187.

Record type: Article

Abstract

The ability of glass to transmit light has been known for many centuries and the majority of its uses depend on this property. The fact that the efficiency of optical transmission is quite low has not been a serious disadvantage because the glass thickness is usually small, often only a few millimetres. Recently, however, there have been two developments of profound technological and sociological importance. First, certain types of glass can be made to have unprecedented purity and transparency. Second, glass fibre structures have been devised which provide a flexible guiding path under practical working conditions. The result is an optical transmission line which is light (in weight) strong, and extremely small, yet capable of carrying vast quantities of information over hundreds of kilometres without amplification. The effects are far-reaching. For example, the use of copper wire and electric currents in the trunk telephone network is being abandoned in favour of glass fibres and light. Parallel developments in microelectronics provide an increasing ability to store and process information. Technologically advanced countries, including our own, are thus in the throes of an information revolution, the effects of which will be as profound as those of the industrial revolution two centuries ago. Increasingly, paper, and even travel, will give way to telecommunications so that services such as electronic mail and electronic newspapers will become commonplace.

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Published date: 1986

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 78499
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/78499
ISSN: 0017-1050
PURE UUID: 03b12474-fe39-493f-86a1-246477ff94b0

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Date deposited: 11 Mar 2010
Last modified: 30 Jan 2019 17:31

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Author: W.A. Gambling

University divisions

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