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Bell Telephone Laboratories: Time Domain Reflectometry
December 1948 Popular Science

December 1948 Popular Science

December 1948 Popular Science Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Popular Science, published 1872-2021. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Maybe the term "time domain reflectometry" had not been coined when this Bell Telephone Laboratories (Bell Labs) advertisement appeared in a 1948 issue of Popular Science magazine. Or, maybe the creators figured Popular Science readers, while generally a more technically-oriented group, might not possess the depth of understanding needed to appreciate the phrase. At the time, use of coaxial cable transmission lines for carrying telephone calls was fairly new, although Bell began using some coaxial cable in 1927. A decade earlier, prior to great advances in high frequency communications during World War II, twisted pairs of solid conductors were sufficient to handle traffic. They did a good job, but each twisted pair carried only a single circuit operating at audio frequencies. That is why telephone cables were so large in diameter - they could be holding hundreds of twisted pairs. Coaxial cable signals can handle hundred or thousands of channels by modulating across a very wide bandwidth. Installation and maintenance of coaxial cable is much less than with a multiconductor cable. I remember seeing technicians on a ladder or in a bucket making up splices on hundreds of twisted pairs when a line went down or a new tap was being installed.

Bell Telephone Laboratories Ad

He asks an echo

Radar sends out pulses of electric waves which, reflected from a target, return to reveal the target's location.

Likewise, the apparatus pictured above sends electric waves over a coaxial telephone cable. Minute irregularities reflect the waves back to their origin; the echo makes a trace on an oscilloscope screen and so tells where to look for the trouble.

Telephone messages need smooth "highways" over which to travel across country: circuits able to transmit every talking frequency, without distortion.

Television needs even smoother highways and at many more frequencies. So Bell Laboratories devised this method of spot-testing the cable over the entire frequency band needed for telephone or television. It is so delicate that any possible interference with transmission is detected at once. Its use makes sure that every inch of highway is clear.

This is another important example of how Bell Telephone Laboratories constantly develop finer communications for the nation.

Bell Telephone Laboratories

Exploring and inventing, devising and perfecting for continued improvements and economies in telephone service



Posted May 20, 2024

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