The invention of Optical Fibre Communications at STL in 1966

Sir Charles K.Kao
2009 Nobel Prize in PhysicsStandard Telecommunication Laboratories, Harlow Essex, UK


"A History of Communicating with Light

From a Wave of a hand to the World Wide Web"
- by Richard Epworth

Video of Cafe Scientifique event
December 14th, 2009 (86 minutes!)

In celebration of:
Charles' 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics

Mankind has communicated using light for aeons: a wave of the hand, a nod of the head, or a wink of the eye.  Light gives us the power to communicate over vast distances, but generally travels in straight lines, so for many years long distance communication was dominated by copper conductors carrying electrical signals that could be steered over the horizon and around corners, even under the oceans.  With the invention of the laser in 1960, researchers in Harlow started to explore a variety of ways of guiding optical signals.  Their aim was to exploit the potentially vast information capacity of light. 

Hear a story of cul-de-sacs and competing microwave technologies, how the prophetic vision of Charles Kao in the mid 1960s, was developed by an ever increasing community of skilled scientists through the next decades, to become the incredible global optical fibre communication network of today.  Explore how different the world would be today, if Charles had been less obsessed, and the doubters had been heeded.

Video Courtesy of Kevin Byron

Richard Epworth worked on optical communications at STL from 1966 - 2004
Together with his wife he currently runs a local Cafe Scientifique in Bishops Stortford, UK

Cafe Scientifique, Bishops Stortford   Poem about Charles Kao