This week’s History of Fiber Optics, like the other fiber optic articles is more technical than most readers can understand, but it is extremely important to our country’s best interest. Even though most people won’t understand the nuts of bolts of fiber optic technology it’s important that we do understand how important it is to both public and private interests. All of us should understand why it took so long for us to get this important technology. And if you bear with me until the bitter end of this series of articles you will clearly see the terrible set back America has suffered because of powerful special interest groups, telecommunication monopolies and the copper wire conglomerate who bought off politicians on both sides of the isle and protected their mega-profits. And, why our government allowed them to stifle such crucial technology for more than thirty years while allowing foreign countries like Sweden, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong and others to widen their telecommunications gap with us, even though most fiber optic technology was first developed here in the United States.
The remedy for the limits of the speed-of-light in communications is not more processing but less, not network software, but network hardware, not intelligent switches, but dumb pipes of boundless bandwidth. To transcend the constraints of circuits integrated on silicone substrates and spread across silicon continents, the industry must consummate its destiny by overthrowing matter. It must replace current systems based on heavy mass laden electrons with nearly mass-less photons, weaving the limits of light speed into an abundance of spectrum. We must move into a fiber-sphere where networks of photons serve a penumbra of software on the edges: networks of light linking cathedrals of mind. But, the photonic flash and the internet’s rush should not lead us to forget that what is happening is no more than the prosaic matter of transferring information from one person to another. It is less than divine redemption, but more important than most other activities that defines humans. Until the 1970s, everyone simply used Ma Bell and her minions around the globe and if you tried to attach any jot or alien gear to this hallowed monopoly you could go to jail. AT&T and the world’s PTTs (departments of posts, telegraphs and telecommunications) held legal monopolies and they plied armies of lawyers and lobbyists to protect it.
Bristling with acronyms and complexities needed to connect the congeries of computer and telecom devices, the networking world seems inscrutable. But all is not chaos because it’s sanctioned by the Geneva-based International Standards Organization (ISO). ISO defines a seven-layer netplex, from the physical layer-actual wire or glass fiber-at the bottom to an “application” layer-to the human interface-on top.