## Tuesday, September 18, 2012

### Attenuation in Fiber Communications Systems

I'm teaching a fiber optics communications course this semester and - like just about every communications course - we started out talking about attenuation.

Attenuation is just a fancy word for loss. In any communications system you've got a certain amount of signal strength going in and a certain amount of signal strength coming out. If there is no amplification in a system there is always going to be loss and the output signal will always be weaker than the input signal.

In fiber systems attenuation is caused by three things:

1. Absorption - Glass, whether it is fiber or the windows in your house, will always absorb a small amount of light going through it. The amount depends on the wavelength of light and what the glass is made of.
2. Scattering - Atoms in glass cause a certain amount of scattering of light and scattered light will not emerge at the output.
3. Leakage - Light will leak out of fiber, especially if the are a lot of bends in the fiber.
Fiber manufacturers typically provide specifications for all three of these, along with total attenuation per kilometer.

One of the primary goals in any communications system is to keep the attenuation to a minimum. Even so, there will always be a loss in signal intensity when comparing output power to input power. Calculating attenuation in a system is pretty simple. Attenuation is cumulative so basically you just add up the signal loss for each component in the system. Here's an example:

Question: A 50 km fiber run has been spec'd at 99% transmission per km. What percentage of light will emerge at the output?

The fiber run is transmitting 99% per km so after the first km 99% of the input signal will be available, after the second km, 99% of what's left after the first km will be available, etc. So we can say:
60.5% of the original input signal strength will emerge at the output.

## Wednesday, September 12, 2012

### When Will Batteries Last A Week?

Like many of you, I'm constantly on the look-out for wall outlets. Meetings, airports, etc - if there is an outlet, I'm trying to find it. I've always fantasized about not having to carry around a charger. Wouldn't it be nice to get 40 hours out of a battery before having to recharge? It sure would! When will it happen? Lenovo has an interesting infogram out that take a look back and look forward when it comes to battery life technology.

Looks like we've got about ten years to go!

## Tuesday, September 11, 2012

### Memories of September 11, 2001

I first published this four years ago.

I was walking into the office when our technician told me a plane had hit one of the towers - he said "they think it was a small plane" and I did not think too much about it. 20 minutes or so later I was in a meeting and the same tech came in saying it was an airliner. We all left the meeting and turned on a small television in our lab. I also made sure I had a computer close by so I could watch email.......

At the time we were running a national listserv for a large group of community college faculty and administrators involved in a Working Connections grant with Microsoft and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). I've pulled out a few emails that came to the list. Here's one of the first from Mete at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC):

11:50 AM, 9/11/01
It is chaos here, but everybody at BMCC is OK. We are closed for the day and the roads/subways to in/out of Manhattan are blocked. I am in Brooklyn (home) now and the sky is dark from smoke/ash/soot. I have a feeling it is going to take a long time to recover from this one.
Hope all is well with everyone around the country,

Mete

BMCC is on Chambers Street, next to ground zero and a college building was damaged from the attack. Mete was on the subway on his way in when the attack started and I believe he walked home to Brooklyn.

Here's a reply message from Lynn at the AACC in Washington, DC::

12:05AM, 9/11/01
We are ok here, but our office is closing so people can try to get home. The smoke from the Pentagon is visible from our 4th floor conference room. Most of the federal offices have now closed, a couple of subway stations near the Pentagon are closed, the streets are crowded with people driving and walking home from downtown offices, and cars with sirens go by every 5 minutes or so. Folks who live near Capitol Hill are sticking around the office until things calm down in that part of town.

Lynn

A flurry of emails went back and forth during the day from people all around the coutry. We were all worried, frustrated and upset about the attacks and our friends in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Here's a sample of the response from Paula at Richland College in Dallas:

11:50AM, 9/11/01
Thank you both for taking the time to provide us with an update of your safety. Our prayers are with you and all Americans during this tragedy. As in other states, thousands are donating blood. A major sports arena in Dallas has been setup as a blood donation facility. Churches are conducting special services. Please assist us to remain informed as to organizations/drives that are established that will provide direct support.

Paula

This came from Chris at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City a few days later:

10:50AM, 9/14/01
FIT is safe and sound and open for business but few classes are running normally. It is hard to describe the experience of walking south on Manhattan's avenues and seeing a column of smoke where the World Trade Towers should be. When the wind shifts, the smell of the fire comes to Chelsea with a light dusting of the cement that is ankle deep a few blocks away.

We are glad to hear that all are well at BMCC and in Washington.

Chris

Here's a followup from Mete that was also sent on September 14:

12:36AM, 9/14/01
The building that we (CIS) dept was suppose to move this Sept., (but did not because of delays) is quite damaged. They are using our main building as command/triage/morgue center. We will be closed until the end of next week. The cleanup is going very slowly and there is very limited access to downtown Manhattan.

The subways are not running and all the outer borough are choked with traffic with people bringing their cars and parking them as close to Manhattan as possible. The air quality is bad, there is possibility that some more buildings (including our own that was next to a collapsed building) may come down aggravating the situation.

There are a number people that I know, with families, that perished in the bombings (we were going go to a 10th bday party this weekend, but the mother is missing - what do we do now ??) from my daughter's school and our neighborhood. But they are defiant, and most of the businesses try to operate as usual with a backdrop of surrealism...

Thanks for all of your e-mails and good wishes. We appreciate it and find comfort in them.

Mete

Hundreds of emails went back and forth over the next few weeks on the listserv. I've saved them all.