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Books, Computer Technology

The World Wide Web is Woven Together Out of Threads of Glass

Fiber Optics
Fiber Optics = Light + Glass

The hybrid of two seemingly unrelated inventions – the concentrated, orderly light of lasers, and the hyper-clear glass fibers came to be known as fiber optics. Using fiber-optic cables was vastly more efficient than sending electrical signals over copper cables, particularly for long distances: light allows much more bandwidth and is far less susceptible to noise and interference than is electrical energy.

Today, the backbone of the global Internet is built out of fiber optic cables. Roughly ten distinct cables traverse the Atlantic Ocean, carrying almost all the voice and data communications between the continents. Each of those cables contains a collection of separate fibers, surrounded by layers of steel and insulation to keep them watertight and protected from fishing trawlers, anchors, and even sharks. Each individual fiber is thinner than a piece of straw.

It seems impossible, but the fact is that you can hold the entire collection of all the voice and data traffic traveling between North America and Europe in the palm of one hand. A thousand innovations came together to make that miracle possible: we had to invent the idea of digital data itself, and lasers, and computers at both ends that could transmit and receive those beams of information – not to mention the ships that lay the cables. But those strange bonds of silicon dioxide (making glass), turned out to be central to the story. The World Wide Web is woven together out of threads of glass.


How We Got To Now
How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
Steven Johnson




Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson
born 1968

. Steven Johnson website
. Wikipedia


Steven Johnson is an American popular science author and media theorist. He is the author of nine books, largely on the intersection of science, technology, and personal experience. He has also co-created three influential web sites: the pioneering online magazine FEED, the Webby Award-winning community site,, and most recently the hyperlocal media site

Johnson is contributing editor to Wired, he writes regularly for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and many other periodicals.

Books by Steven Johnson include:


About Gary Reiner

thinking, reading, and writing about whatever's going on in the world...


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