Looking Back: The History of Fiber Optics

Today, telecommunication relies almost entirely on fiber optic cables. Without this technology, there would be no need for HD video encoders. But the use of these cables is a relatively recent development. Today, we look back on the beginnings of fiber optics and trace them all the way to where the industry is today.


Experiments with light refraction, which is essential for fiber optics, began in the mid-1800s. In 1870, John Tyndall created an experiment which demonstrated this principle by having a jet of water flow from one container to another. By directing a beam of sunlight at the water, a zigzag path of light was seen. In the year 1880, Alexander Graham Bell invented the Photophone, which used these principles of optics to transmit voice data. However, even though it was more advanced than the telephone, available technology made it impractical for use.

Mid 1900s

It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that the word “fiber optics” was first used. In the 1950s, the first practical glass fiber was created, which greatly expanded its use. With the advent of laser and LED technology, a very small light source was able to create the light necessary for the fibers to be functional. From the 1960s onward, there was rapid growth in the field of fiber optics as people around the world continued to experiment with and improve on the technology.

Late 1900s

It was in 1976 that AT&T first experimented with installing a fiber optic system in Atlanta, Georgia. Others soon followed, but it wasn’t until a few years later that fibers were capable of carrying light pulses over longer distances without the signal weakening. By 1980, these issues had been largely addressed, and fiber optic cables were used at the Winter Olympics that year to transmit television signals with great success. In the 1980s, as computers saw rapid development, people began to realize the potential for using fiber optic cables, which were capable of handling far greater amounts of data than traditional copper cables.

The 2000s and beyond

By the year 2000, copper wires had been almost entirely replaced with fiber optic cables, except local loops, as seen in FTTx setups. It is these vast networks of fiber optics cables across the globe that have made the success of the Internet possible.

As you can see, people everywhere rely heavily on the power of fiber optics for telecommunications, and at Radiant Communications Corporation, we have been around since the industry first began to see huge developments. Whether your organization needs HD video encoding solutions or PON/RFoG insertion equipment, we’ll be there to guide you every step of the way.