Here's my OFC shopping list

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Usually, when I stop to visit a company's booth at a trade show, my hosts ask if there's anything I'm following at the show. The answer, generally, is "no"-I don't like to arrive with a preconceived angle into which I must force-fit the show's major events. That said, I must admit that there are several technologies I'm looking forward to exploring when I arrive in Anaheim this month for OFC 2001.

The first is tunable lasers for transmission applications. We've seen the first generation of these devices from such major laser manufacturers as Lucent Technologies, Alcatel, and Nortel Networks (not to mention younger companies such as Altitun, which is now part of ADC). Regardless of what kind of technology provided the foundation for this first generation of tunable lasers, each required a tradeoff between power and tuning range. Recently, several companies claim to have reduced this "either/or," and I'm eager to see which firms back up their talk with hardware demonstrations. I'll also be interested in learning which systems vendors have mapped how they will exploit such tunability once these lasers become standard pieces of their equipment.

All-optical-switching components represent another technology that continues to invite a closer look. We've been swept along on a tide of micro-electromechanical-systems (MEMS) breakthroughs for more than a year. While MEMS promises to remain a popular technology at this year's OFC, don't be surprised if other technologies are offered as alternatives. These technologies include devices based on holography, frustrated total internal reflection, and total internal reflection-and in this latter category, I don't mean just bubble switches (although Agilent will be happy to show you one of these if you haven't seen it yet).

The drive toward 40-Gbit/sec transmission speeds also should manifest itself at this year's conference. Last year's show saw the introduction of the first components for this speed, but several technological hurdles have remained in the path of systems vendors looking to introduce commercial hardware. No one wants to let a company jump ahead of the vendor pack on 40 Gbits/sec the way Nortel broke from the competition at 10 Gbits/sec, so I expect plenty of talk-and I hope some meaningful examples-of progress in this area.

Naturally, I'll have to keep a look out for surprises. You can always count on one or two at each year's OFC. If you run across one, stop me on the show floor and point me in the right direction. I'll be the guy half an hour late for his next appointment.

And speaking of OFC 2001, while you're attending this year's conference, expect to be greeted by Lightwave's special show edition. Approximately 140 products will be highlighted in the show issue, and you'll be asked to vote for the product of your choice in each of six categories: Systems, Subsystems, Components, Test Equipment, Design Tools, and Manufacturing Equipment. The top vote-getter in each category, as well as the overall winner, will be recognized by the staff of Lightwave on the OFC exhibit floor. Along with descriptions of the products, a ballot will be enclosed in the issue for your convenience. We urge you to cast your vote during the show by dropping off your filled-in ballot at the Lightwave show booth. Also, remember to leave us your business card, because following the voting, the lucky winner of an eBook reader will be determined by a random drawing at our booth. Th Acf1ffc

Stephen M. Hardy
Editorial Director and
Associate Publisher
stephenh@pennwell.com

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