Fiber optic technology allows humans to control the path of a beam of light by confining it within ductile, transparent materials, like cords of plastic and glass. These transparent materials function as pipelines for light, and with their help, light, which usually moves in straight lines, can be sent along curved trajectories or around corners. Optical fibers of very pure glass have a surprisingly massive range, having been observed to carry light across distances greater than 100 miles (160 km) with only slight dimming. Some individual fibers measure less than 0.00015 inches (0.004 mm) wide, which makes them thinner than human hair. The light transmitted by optical fibers can be used for simple illumination, or to transmit signals and data. Though there was some practical application of fiber optic technology as early as the 1950s, major commercial implementation began in the 1980s.
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