Technology advances challenge forecasters . . .

The rate of commercial adoption of any new technology is a function of many different factors, ranging from the degree of improvement in the cost/benefit relationshi¥to the amount of marketing involved. Predictions of the rate of adoption of a new technology are rarely accurate. In the case of optoelectronics and lasers, examples of the unpredictable nature of new technology quickly come to mind. I still recall how, in the early days of my laser career, helium-neon lasers were "about to be m

Technology advances challenge forecasters . . .

Stephen G. Anderson

Executive Editor

stevega@pennwell.com

The rate of commercial adoption of any new technology is a function of many different factors, ranging from the degree of improvement in the cost/benefit relationshi¥to the amount of marketing involved. Predictions of the rate of adoption of a new technology are rarely accurate. In the case of optoelectronics and lasers, examples of the unpredictable nature of new technology quickly come to mind. I still recall how, in the early days of my laser career, helium-neon lasers were "about to be made obsolete" by semiconductor lasers! And frequency doubled diode-pumped solid-state lasers have been "about to make ion lasers obsolete" for quite some time.

The promise of new technology can be slow to materialize in the commercial arena because real-world development brings to light unforeseen problems or the entrenched technology continues to remain cost competitive. With diode-pumped lasers, both cost and engineering problems conspired to slow down their widespread adoption for many applications, although recent events suggest that this situation is changing (see p. 63). Aggressive cost-focused engineering kept sales of helium-neon lasers higher than predicted for several years, while design advances in photomultiplier tubes with continued focus on applications has kept an "old" detector technology very much alive (see p. 107). Novel applications that take advantage of some characteristics unique to ion lasers have also helped that aging laser technology kee¥going (see p. 103). Of course, some advances are adopted more quickly by the marketplace than expected--wavelength-division multiplexing technology is a recent example.

. . . and researchers

Outside the commercial arena, staying abreast of technology research and developments presents its own set of challenges and accounts for the large number of scientific conferences that take place each year. This month Laser Focus World introduces a new regular monthly column--Previews--that may help. Previews is intended to provide a brief overview of upcoming meetings far enough in advance that readers can plan attendance at conferences appropriate to their areas of interest. We begin with a look at SPIE`s Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA (see p. 58).

Our Special Report this month includes a look at some recent developments in astronomy. Impressive images from several ground-based telescopes complement articles about the commercial evolution of adaptive optics and a NASA project involving a space-based interferometer (see p. 90).

More in Research