The Internet and Fiber Optics
1 The Internet is lauded by most as the greatest innovation of the twentieth century. Originally conceived of by the US Federal Department of Defense as a means of decentralizing their computer control center in the event of nuclear attack, the Internet has grown into a huge network of globally connected computers. In fact, recent figures indicate that nearly two billion people currently make use of its many services. The Internet has revolutionized global communications, information access, and commercial transactions. (Question 1-2)
2 This complex system, whose visual representation resembles the architecture of the human brain, allows individuals to communicate almost instantaneously across vast distances through email, instant messaging, and videoconferencing. The emergence of the World Wide Web. a massive set of interlinked online documents, and search engines such as Google, have ushered in a new age of instant information including text, graphics, and audio-visual media. Online forums. message boards, and websites dedicated to serving particular interest groups have broadened people’s social circles and communication opportunities. Remote access enables users to check email and access files and programs on a home or office PC from distant locations. Streaming media provide a venue for broadcast companies such as the BBC or individuals participating in sites such as YouTube to upload video for mass consumption. Secure servers allow for financial transactions and the online purchasing of virtually any type of product. (Question 3)
4 Fiber optrcs works by using a light source adjacent to the fiber such as a lightemitting d10de (LED) or laser to produce and digitally encode the light signal. This light travels through the core of the fiber, which is composed of pure flexible glass. The purer the glass, the clearer the signal. Since light travels in straight lines, the core is covered with a mirrored layer that reflects light off its walls and guides it down the fiber channel. To make up for signal loss over distance, laser amplifiers convert the weakening signal into a stronger one with the same properties. Finally, upon reaching its destination, an opt1cal receiver decodes the digital signal so that it can be read by a computer, TV, or telephone. Fiber-optics technology is not limited to the Internet. (Question 5-6)
5 Due to the physical constraints mvolved in creating a fiber-opt1c infrastructure within cities because of the need to distribute fibers among millions of users, fiberoptic systems have been reserved up until very recently for long-distance applications. Telecommunication companies usually solve what they caLl the “last mile” connectivity problem by complementing fiber with copper-wire systems already in place. Fiber-tothe- node, also called fiber-to-the-neighborhood, (FTTN) delivers fiber-optic service to an area where cable or DSL copper-wire service providers offer high-speed Internet to their subscribers. While their bandwidth is inferior to fiber, both cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) are intermediate measures that provide adequate service without the huge undertaking of replacing and rerouting fiber to individual residences and businesses. (Question 7-8-9)
6 Recent studies estimate that Internet traffic will increase fifty-fold within the next two years. Because the number of light colors that can be routed through a single fiber doubles every six to nine months, the bandwidth potential for fiber is virtually limitless. This makes it a safe bet for the future where yet unheard of Internet media hinted at by 3-D virtual world applications will likely demand increasingly faster connection speeds. To date, more than 10 million customers worldwide have fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service. While Asian countries have taken the lead in this regard, it is probable that FTTH will be the standard international medium of Internet connectivity in the not-so-distant future. (Question 10)
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