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What is a Fiber-Optic Patch Cord?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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A fiber-optic patch cord is a cable that connects devices to allow information to pass between them. Patch cords are a common way of setting up wired connections between devices, such as connecting a television to a digital cable box using coaxial cable. These cords are used for any type of signal transference, such as in a television, radio or computer network. A fiber-optic cord is a special kind of cable that uses light to transfer signals at extremely high speeds with very little degradation. As a result of these properties, a fiber-optic patch cord is typically a reliable way to transfer information.

Most modern homes are full of patch cords, as they connect stereo components, televisions, video game consoles and computers to one another. The ‘cable’ for cable television is a specialized type of patch cord that goes from the cable company’s box to the inside of a home. Network cable between a modem and a router, coaxial connections between a television and a digital video disk player and even the cable that connects an music player to a computer are all patch cords.

These cords come in a lot of different shapes, sizes and lengths. They have specialized connectors that allow a single cord to do a single job. Even though the ends look so different, there are really only a handful of different types of cords used as patch cables.

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In between the varied ends, coaxial cable is the most common type of connection found in entertainment systems, and Ethernet cable is common in networked devices. Single-wire cords are less common, but are used in some kinds of scientific and audio equipment. Lastly, fiber-optic patch cord can actually do everything the others can do faster and with less signal loss, but it is more expensive and has some problems not found in other materials.

Fiber-optic cords use a plastic or glass core, surrounded by reflective material and protective cladding, to send pulses of light. These cables transfer information at very high speeds, since they use actual light rather than electrical pulses to move the information. In addition, light is not disrupted by electromagnetic noise the way electrical pulses are, allowing the signal to stay nearly pure.

Since fiber-optic patch cord is often considered superior to other types in speed and clarity, it seems like it would be everywhere, but it does have some problems. The design of a fiber-optic patch cord is very specific. Small variations or problems in manufacture that traditional cables wouldn’t even notice will totally stop transmission. A fiber-optic patch cord may also end up cracked when it is bent at a sharp angle; this will also stop any transmission. After a fiber-optic cord is made, it is also very hard to change its length, as opposed to electrical cables which can be connected or cut very easily.

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