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City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics (Sloan Technology) 1st Edition

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195108187
ISBN-10: 0195108183
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Editorial Reviews Review

Computers you notice. They sit on your desk and hum, ever smaller, ever faster, and always obsolete if bought longer ago than last week. But the equally impressive technology that turns millions of terminals into a global network is less obvious. The phone line that comes into your house probably still pushes electrons through metal. But not far away, the signal will join millions of others relayed down fiber optic cables by laser. Jeff Hecht's fascinating account of this undersung technology goes back 150 years to find the origins of fiber optics. Then he chronicles the many ingenious and determined engineers who fashioned it into a technology that festoons the globe with cables carrying pulses of photons. It was harder than pioneering copper links because supplanting an existing technology needs more persuasion than establishing the first one. And there was competition from the satellite industry, as well as unexpected setbacks, such as sharks who ignored copper but chewed fiber optic cables. Hecht tells a good tale, combining a light journalistic touch with a scholarly knowledge of the industry he has covered for over two decades. The story is not over yet, but this is a rich account of how we got this far in a technology that really has fueled a revolution. --Jon Turney,

From Publishers Weekly

The first underwater telegraph cable was laid between England and the Continent in 1850, with the cable from America to Europe following in 1858. But for the next century, improvements in transcontinental communication came slowly. By the 1940s, Americans could talk to Europeans via a static-plagued radiophone. By the early 1980s, satellite transmissions had improved conversation clarity significantly, but callers were still annoyed by delay and feedback. Those who have made a transcontinental call recently, however, know that the wonders of fiber optics have made it possible to hear a pin drop on the Champs-Elysees. In this deft history, Hecht, a writer for the British weekly New Scientist, shows how the illuminated fountains that thrilled crowds at the great 19th-century exhibitions convinced scientists that light can be guided along narrow tubes. In our century, scientists used these tubes of light first to look inside the human body and then, as the physics of wave transmission were better understood, to transmit audio and optical information. Hecht explains which technological advances have made fiber optics the backbone of our telephone system in the last 10-15 years and how everyday applications should increase exponentially once fibers are connected directly to our homes. Already optical fibers are used in many surprising ways: guiding laser light in life-saving surgery; embedded in concrete to monitor stress in bridges; wound into gyroscopes to improve airline safety. Hecht's latter chapters are bogged down slightly with details that will mainly interest readers working in related areas, but general science buffs should enjoy his account of the development of the technology that will change our lives in many unexpected ways in the next quarter century.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Sloan Technology
  • Hardcover: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195108183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195108187
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,083,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeff Hecht has been writing about lasers, optics and fiber optics for more than 35 years. After writing for industry magazine Laser Focus World for several years, he began writing books that explain laser science and technology to newcomers to the field. His books are aimed at readers from middle-school students to professionals. The New York Academy of Sciences gave his book Optics: Light for a New Age, honorable mention as one of the best children's science books in older age group in 1988. He has just republished an inexpensive paperback version of the fifth edition of his technician-training and self-study book Understanding Fiber Optics.

After years of writing about new science and technology, he turned to the history of fiber optics, writing City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics, as part of the Sloan Technology Series. More recently, he wrote BEAM: The Race to Make The Laser, describing the work that led to the world's first laser in 1960.

He continues to write extensively for magazines, covering topics from lasers to dinosaurs for New Scientist magazine, and continuing developments in lasers and photonics for Laser Focus World

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Hecht makes fiber optics understandable to even the most non-technical of us. The constant stream of anecdotes keeps you turning the pages. The stories from the laboratories are great. You really get the feel for the personalities of the competing scientists. I would reccomend this book to anyone intersted in the field or interested in technology in general and how an invention is born from a parlor trick and becomes a telecommunications necessity.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Hecht does a good job of explaining where the technology of fiber optics communications came from. His book is not an explanation of how fiber optics communications works, but a history. I have a reasonably good background in fiber optics communications so it's difficult for me to judge whether someone who knew nothing about it would find it easy to follow, although I think they would.
I would particularly recommend the book to fiber optic techies - it really makes the technology more meaningful when you understand how the technology developed. A fine job by a good writer - very close to five stars.
And if you're technically oriented and want more knowledge of fiber optic technology, I'd recommend "Optical Networks" by Ramaswami and Sivarajan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bill B on May 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Fiber optics, the backbone of local and international communications and of the Internet, seems like a new technology, but in this comprehensive history of the field Jeff Hecht describes the Victorian origins of light guiding via jets of water.  In the first half of the 20th century a number of researchers independently discovered flexible glass fibers, and with the introduction of the laser in the 1950s long-distance optical communication became a possibility.  The main section of the book focuses on the work of researchers in Britain, Japan, and the United States from the 1950s through the 1980s as they overcome many technical problems and develop the beginnings of modern fiber optic cables, documenting the failures, the dead-ends, and the ultimate success in the early 1980s.  Extensively researched and annotated, with much material from primary sources, City of Light is accessible to the non-technical reader, yet has enough detail and links to additional sources to satisfy students of engineering history.
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Format: Hardcover
This is book has a wealth of information on the early years of fibre optics that I have not seen anywhere else. It is full of names and brief explanations of their contribution. But overall I thought this was a dull, slow moving book with little insight. More of an ongoing collection of notes that have been put together for another better book on the history of fibre once the real story finally emerges. There is very little science here. You won't learn much about light physics or why the technology works -only that it does and who patented it. (But the science may be reserved for Hecht's other book.) Also , for those who are trying to keep up with Gilder this book will be disappointing. There is nothing on DWDM (one brief, unexplained mention) or nothing that maps out the current players, companies, or technologies. (I can tell that Gilder has read it because some of the historical facts have been mentioned in the GTR) But there are only a few pages at the end that try to update where the technology has been in the last 10 years, where it is going or why. Huge gaps where a technology is mentioned but not even defined, much less explained. I wish there was a better book on the subject, but for now this is it, and maybe it is worth reading for that reason alone. Sorry to be so critical, but if you like Burke's "Connections" this will only get you lost. It probably would not have been published but for the sudden surge in tech stocks. I hope the Slone series is not all like this.
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Format: Hardcover
It's great book for those who interests in where it came from. Especailly I would like to note the style of narration as an example of a deep insight into the issue of development and early research works. Unfortunately, the story is ended in the begining of the 90th and whole decade is omitted. It would be better if the story of photonic components development was included but it's a matter of next edition of this book.

As conclusion, I recommend this book to read for everybody who is involved into the field of Fiber Optics.
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