Optical Engineering • Open AccessShort history of laser development
Half a century has passed since Theodore Maiman's small ruby rod crossed the threshold of laser emission. The breakthrough demonstration earned headlines, but in the early years the laser was called "a solution looking for a problem," and there was a germ of truth in the joke. Years of development since then have vastly improved laser performance, and tremendously increased their variety, earning lasers important roles in scientific research, consumer products, telecommunications, engineering, medicine, materials working, and a host of other applications. This article reviews the highlights of those developments and puts them into context, showing how laser technology has evolved to meet application requirements.