Transformation in transmission

In 1966, Manfred Börner applied for a patent for a data transmission system on which almost all optoelectronic fiber optic cables are based. Without it, the internet would hardly be conceivable today.

“Sweet nothings and smiles, a distant view of stock market quotations, computer data, or housewife gossip – whatever picture phone users and telephone subscribers have to communicate in the future, a single hair- thin optical fiber will transmit it.” This is what magazine “Der Spiegel” wrote in 1973 about a revolutionary technology. Physicist Manfred Börner from the Ulm Research Institute of Telefunken AG had applied for a patent for this on December 21, 1966. He had discovered an optical transmission system based on the combination of laser diodesoptical fibers and photodiodes which made telephone, data, and long-distance transmissions possible on land and under the sea.

A momentous discovery: optical fibers that conduct light waves

The principle behind Börner’s discovery: at the core of a fiber optic cable is an optical fiber. The light entering this fiber at one end is reflected multiple times within the fiber and emerges at the other end. With his system, Manfred Börner thus modulated light for the first time and turned it into a carrier of information, transmitting data optoelectronically. In 1976, Bell finally presented a cable made of 144 individual fibers that could carry 50,000 telephone calls. The first 3,600-kilometer fiber optic submarine cable has been connecting Europe and America since 1988.

And today? Fiber optic cables have become an indispensable part of modern communications and internet technology.

(Image: volff –

Place of invention

Forschungsinstitut der Firma Telefunken, Ulm, später AEG-Telefunken Ulm, Söflinger Straße (Häuserblock zwischen Bauhoferstraße, Lindenstraße, Kässbohrerstraße)