Fiber optic technology is revolutionizing telecommunications and thus our lives. Networks of opitcal fibers have spread around the world, opening the door to the possibility of a new information age, and spurring telephone and cable television companies into a billion-dollar race for control over the next generation of services and equipment. The story of this technology is fascinating complex, and largely untold. Hecht tells this story, from its beginning in 19th-century attempts to guide light, for purposes of illuminating the insides of the human body, to today's mysterious, ubiquitous communications technologies. We hear the crucial conversation in 1951 that led to the realization that optical fibers might conduct light if coated with a layer of transparent material. Hecht also describes the medical technologies developed in the 1960's, which allowed doctors to see inside patients' stomachs and better understand gastric disorders. And we learn of the race to develop fiber-optic technology that could control the laser, the brilliant concentrated beam that captured the imagination of the physics community.
This history is meticulously detailed from beginning to end, allowing for explorations of experiments that now seem strange and even humorous, but nonetheless illuminate the origins of the technology. We get the whole story, including the huge range of contributing characters, accidents, and revolutionary ideas. The book is infused with the spirit of fascination and fun, and the reader will enjoy the story for its own sake, as well for the historical picture it provides of a technology on which we all depend.