Chapter VII

Photonics Boom: The 1990s  


The decade of the 1990s was the time of two great related “bubbles,” the dot-com bubble and the fiber-optic communication bubble.  All commerce would be conducted via the web, and the web would operate via the practically unlimited bandwidth available with fiber optics.  A fiber-optics connection to every house in the world was the confident prediction of many.  High-tech was the darling of the stock market, and fiber optics the favorite of the high-tech industries.  Venture capital funding was available for any good idea, and a lot of bad ideas, in fiber optics communications and switching – in a word, “photonics."  This had an enormous influence on the Institute and the optics world in general. B.S. graduates in optics were offered stock options that might be worth millions in a couple of year’s time.  Fresh Ph.D.s received offers in excess of $90,000 per year plus lucrative stock options.  It was difficult to keep students in school to finish their degrees, and it was difficult to retain faculty when their recent students were making more money than they.  It was an exciting time, described in Gary Wicks’ description of Dennis Hall’s directorship and in Hall’s essay on photonics.  The long-term effects of the bubbles are not yet clear.  It does appear that the cheap communications that they provided are opening up international trade like nothing has done before.  While there were disruptions in the optics industry when the bubbles burst, the demand for graduates of the Institute has remained good, even if the signing bonuses are not what they once were.

  The Dennis Hall years, 1993 - 2000

 Gary Wicks 

 History of Research in Nonlinear Optics

at The Institute of Optics

 Robert W. Boyd

 The Faculty Club

 Carlos Stroud

 Photonics at the Institute of Optics

 Dennis G. Hall

 Optics Pranks

 Carlos Stroud

 A Brief History of QED Technologies

 Donald Golini