Memos from the last millennium

W. Conard Holton

Executive Editor

In the mid-1980s, when wavelength-division multiplexing was little more than a glimmer on the horizon, the Italian writer Italo Calvino was sketching out what he saw as the essential values for 21st-century literature. Surprisingly his five artistic values of lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity could describe developments in our technological world, making me marvel at how art predicts life.

It`s easy to point to wavelength-division-multiplexing components and systems as the embodiment of these qualities. And certainly the companies making components and systems must have these qualities or they fail. Vinod Khosla, a well-known entrepreneur and venture capitalist, told us at OFC in March that entrepreneurs need to embrace a risk-taking style incorporating these values. The message was that you had better adapt to rapid change or your business is finished.

Calvino liked to write fantastic tales, but I doubt he could have conceived of the ways in which light has been put to work in telecommunications. Yet you can hear the echoes of his writing throughout this issue. When Tom Hausken describes the booming market for telecom laser diodes, he starts out by pointing to the irony of declining prices and increasing demand-trends that bedevil component manufacturers, who now need to be adept at changing direction while turning out high-quality products quickly.

Lighting the way

When Rob Plastow of Altitun writes about tunable (wavelength-agile) lasers, he evokes Calvino`s lightness and quickness. Chris Barnard from ONI and colleagues from Optiwave, in describing EDFA design, refer to optimizing fiber lengths and filter shapes while minimizing interference-characteristics of exactitude that are fundamental to good design.

Eugene Rudkevich and Feenix Pan at Taliescent write on the properties of light in fiber, on how to make polarization mode dispersion understandable (visible) and manageable. As for manufacturing, Gail Overton at Newport makes clear that multiple types of automation equipment are needed to speed the assembly and test of components such as planar waveguides.

Calvino died before he could complete an essay on his sixth artistic value-consistency. But because he had envisioned six, his book on values was titled Six Memos for the Next Millennium. It`s safe to say that consistently increasing demand, consistently high growth, and consistently innovative advances are themes for WDM as well.

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