The Lazar: Beaming Us Into The Future

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Oh, if we knew then what we know now! Looking at trends from the past just might help you jump on that next big thing. This historical piece offers some great insight.

In their June 1961 issue of Science and Securities, Harris Upham analysts called laser "one of technology's most revolutionary developments to date," whose perfection is said to be leading to "myriad new uses of light, some of which will revolutionize manufacturing techniques, while others will provide surgeons with important new instruments."

This is a good assessment of the lazar and even if you're not going to invest in them, you should at least give them a once over.

Laser, or optical maser (a solid-state physics device), stands for "light amplification by simulated emission of radiation." Its development in 1960 constitutes one of the major breakthroughs of the century because it makes possible extension of the radio spectrum from 50 gigacycles (kmc) up to 500,000 gigacycles, thus vastly increasing the number of available communications channels.

The Science and Electronics Investment Letter saw the laser as a "remarkably versatile device that has ushered in new growth vistas for the electronics industry" and "may even top the semiconductor as the century's most significant breakthrough in electronics."

"Actually, the most significant advance of the laser," said Harris Upham analysts. "Is that it produces a beam of coherent light that can be modulated, like radio waves, to carry information" compared with normal light which "is completely incoherent and, as a result, is useless as a communication medium."

Yet, Harris Upham researchers went on, "the laser is just one of several such devices now in advanced stages of development. The others are the maser and iraser, for microwave and infrared radiation by almost unbelievable amounts. For example, the laser can produce a sharply defined beam of light a million times brighter than the sun, and yet the device can be held in the hand with no discomfort during operation. An ordinary carbon-arc lamp would have to attain a temperature of several billion degrees to produce a beam of equal brightness."

Among the leaders in the laser field are IBM, Bell Labs, Hughes Aircraft, Raytheon, Westinghouse Electric, and American Optical. Among the small firms are Technical Research Group (privately held), and Edgerton, Germehausen 8c Grier. EG & G has an optical maser stimulator that is reportedly ten times more efficient than any other light source now available for laser experimentation.

A tiny research outfit, Nuclear Research Associates, is developing a laser device based on its original and novel method of storing energy and controlling its release by the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation. This laser device, NRA president Melvin Ehrlich told me, employs a unique pumping technique, differing from the optically pumping method used by the current laser devices, including Hughes Aircraft's and IBM's crystal lasers and Bell Labs' gaseous laser.

A specialized science fund called Samson Associates makes itself a specialist in "uncovering" companies, either publicly or privately owned, concentrating in this new field. Mrs. Rose S. Farrell of Samson Associates told me that one of the fund founders is Dr. Charles Townes, who is known for his original research work in the maser field and played a key role in discovering this radically new means of generating light. He is the Provost at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Samson management team includes Dr. Mirek Stevenson who is a consultant in physics to IBM and his wife, Larraine C.Stevenson, who is a member of the New York Society of Security Analysts.

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