FIBER OPTICS - The technology in which communication signals in the form of modulated light beams are transmitted over a glass fiber transmission medium. Fiber optic technology offers high bandwidth, small space needs and protection from electromagnetic interference, eavesdropping and radioactivity.
In 1870, John Tyndall, using a jet of water that flowed from one container to another and a beam of light, demonstrated that light used internal reflection to follow a specific path. As water poured out through the spout of the first container, Tyndall directed a beam of sunlight at the path of the water. The light, as seen by the audience, followed a zigzag path inside the curved path of the water.
William Wheeling, in 1880, patented a method of light transfer called "piping light."" Wheeling believed that by using mirrored pipes branching off from a single source of illumination, i.e. a bright electric arc, he could send the light to many different rooms in the same way that water, through plumbing, is carried throughout buildings today. Due to the ineffectiveness of Wheeling's idea and to the concurrent introduction of Edison's highly successful incandescent light bulb, the concept of piping light never took off.
Fiber optic technology experienced a phenomenal rate of progress in the second half of the twentieth century. Early success came during the 1950's with the development of the fiberscope. This image-transmitting device, which used the first practical all-glass fiber, was concurrently devised by Brian O'Brien at the American Optical Company and Narinder Kapany (who first coined the term "fiber optics- in 1956) and colleagues at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. Early all-glass fibers experienced excessive optical loss, the loss of the light signal as it traveled the fiber, limiting transmission distances.
The development of laser technology was the next important step in the establishment of the industry of fiber optics.