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Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century
BOX 1.1THE ''TERA ERA" VISION FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN 10 TO 15 YEARS
Terabit-per-second backbone, long-haul networks
·Access networks operating at hundreds of gigabits per second
·Local area networks operating at tens of gigabits per second
·1 gigabit per second to the desktop
·Terabit-per-second throughput switches
·Interconnections operating at hundreds of gigabytes per second
Terabyte data banks
·Multiterabyte disk drives
·Tens-of-gigabit memory chips
The tera era is a 10- to 15-year vision for the needs of the information age, as articulated by Joel Birnbaum of Hewlett-Packard in October 1996. Projections for switching and details for storage have been added. This vision includes the need for cost-effective networks of virtually unlimited bandwidth. Note that the roadmaps of several key information technologies promise to meet the requirements of this vision: fiber transport capacity, computer processing power, and magnetic storage density are all advancing by a factor of 100 every 10 years. This implies that giga (109) performance will improve to tera (1012) performance within about 15 years.
strong advances in display technology. Optics and electronics are partnering and complementing each other in meeting this demand for information technology and thus enabling the information age.
There are five major technology segments in which optics plays a major role or has the chance to do so in the future. One of them is information transport over long distances, through large networks under the ocean, across continents, and in the local networks of the telephone and cable television systems. For this, optical fiber transmission is already the technology of choice, with a clear edge in cost and performance over competing technologies such as coaxial cable or satellite communications. Optical processing, including switching and networking, is another segment in which worldwide R&D hopes to open up new markets. A third segment is the storage of information, where technology has to meet rapidly increasing demands for more and more storage capacity. Optical techniques are a strongly growing complement to traditional magnetic storage. A fourth segment is the display of information, for which optics is the intrinsic, unavoidable link between the human eye and the electronics of a television or computer. The fifth important segment is the interface between electronic machinery and information recorded on paper, which includes printers, scanners, and copiers. This segment is not covered in this report since most of its