Optical innovators win Nobel Prize

With the invention of the telephone, wireless communications and optical communications, it's clear that the last century has been one of major innovations in the communications industry. Now a hundred years after Marconi won a Nobel Prize for wireless transmission, three optical networking pioneers have been awarded for their work in advancing optical communications. Winning the Nobel Prize was Charles K. Kao, a former physicist at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in London and former Bell Labs researchers Dr. Willard Boyle and Dr. George Smith.

First up is Kao. Amidst great skepticism, Kao--in 1966--was able to prove how light could be transmitted across long distances. Up till that time, fiber signals could not travel for more than around 20 meters before the light would die out. What caused light loss were glass imperfections. Instead, Kao decided to focus on driving impurities out of the fiber, which brought on the first ultrapure fiber in 1970.

Sharing the Nobel Prize honor are Bell Labs researchers Dr. Willard Boyle and Dr. George Smith. The pair was awarded the Nobel Prize for inventing and developing the charge-coupled device (CCD), a technology that transforms patterns of light into useful digital information. In addition to being used in the telecom industry, the technology is widely used in various devices including digital cameras, video cameras and bar code readers as well as in security monitoring, medical endoscopy, modern astronomy and video conferencing.

For more:
- Light Reading has this article
- see the Bell Labs release here

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