Laser Pointer History

by Contributing Writer

A laser pointer is a cheap, hand-held laser that is used for different purposes--for example, during presentations to point out a particular area of the slide or in classrooms to point out a particular section/formula to students. The laser pointer’s history is closely intermingled with that of laser, as the development of the latter laid the foundation for the former.

Onset

The idea of a laser germinated in the minds of one of the greatest scientists ever, Albert Einstein, who was inclined toward studying light and its properties. He was able to understand the dispersion of light (when light travels from one medium to another, it splits into its constituent wavelengths) and study its properties aptly. After observing the sun's rays, he conceived the idea of the laser. However, he was not able to put this into practice. Still, he passed on his knowledge--in the field of properties of light--to future generations.

Actual Conception

The person who invented the first laser is still debatable. However, Theodore Maiman is widely credited with creating the first laser. Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow are the two more contenders for the same honor. Some even credit Gordon Gould as the creator of laser. He was awarded a patent for his work in 1977, though many people had used his invention by then.

Growth

With time, lasers became so cheap that they could be employed in day-to-day devices. This gave birth to the laser pointers in 1980s. They produced light rays that were much more powerful than the initial lasers. Laser pointers are fitted with external optics (lenses) to focus the light better. The pointers were fitted with laser diodes (a semiconductor device) that controlled the intensity of the light beam.

Initial Costs and Applications

The first laser pointers cost hundreds of dollars. However, as demand for pointers picked up, the manufacturing cost came down. Uses for the device went beyond boardrooms to battlefields, where they were employed in machine guns to shoot down a target. Projectors used during presentations were pre-installed with laser pointers. As of 2010, laser pointers are available for less than $5.

The Next Era

With further development in the field of lasers, the "green laser" was conceived. It’s more expensive because its construction is much more complex. The advantage of the green laser is that it’s much better to look at as a visual aid. It is 50 times brighter than the red laser since the color green is visualized better by the human eye.

Photo Credits

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