20th Century Technology
Fiber optic technology, which passes light through narrow glass tubing, transmits sound, data and images with astonishing clarity and speed. Developed first in the 1950s, fiber optic cable has replaced copper wire in many long-distance telephone lines and is frequently used to network computers. While fiber optic technology has yet to fulfill its potential, our telecommunications infrastructure will increasingly be based on fiber optic technology. Additionally, fiber optics have spawned medical advances. Now in wide use are endoscopes, devices fitted with optical fibers that can examine the inside of the body and transmit images onto a video monitor. Endoscopes have virtually replaced the scalpel, allowing noninvasive surgery that reduces infection while enabling speedier postsurgical recoveries.