Lasers' Promising Future

May 20, 1983

Report Outline
Development and Uses
Defense Applications
Lasers' Earthly Uses
Looking to the Future
Special Focus

Development and Uses

Steady Growth of Worldwide Laser Market

When the laser was introduced in 1960, skeptics described it as “a solution in search of a problem.” It was clear that the device was capable of producing concentrated light beams of unprecedented intensity, purity and precision. But unlike most scientific inventions, the laser was conceived without specific applications in mind.

In just 23 years, however, the imaginations of scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs have proved the skeptics wrong. The worldwide laser market grew to nearly $1.4 billion in annual sales in 1982, 11 percent higher than 1981, according to a survey conducted by the publishers of Laser Report newsletter. Manufacturers use lasers as drills, cutting tools and welding torches. To the surgeon, the laser is both scalpel and suture, as well as a diagnostic tool. To the printer, it is a typesetter and photoengraver. And soon, this integral implement of many factories, laboratories, and hospitals may become common in American homes in the form of laser-played video and audio disks.

The laser has been used by the military as a range finder and targeting device. Some defense strategists believe laser weapons mounted on satellites could one day be used to intercept and destroy nuclear missiles—an idea endorsed by President Reagan in a March 23 televised address to the nation on defense policy. “I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century…,” Reagan said. “But isn't it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war.”

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