A Survey of Lasers at the Birth of Holography

Robert Hess
Point Source Productions, United States

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The 50th anniversary of the first hologram made with laser light is an appropriate time to shine some light on the lasers that made it possible. Dubbed “a solution looking for a problem”, the laser emerged from industrial research labs as a new kind of light source for any application requiring coherence. Immediately commercialized by both start-up and well-established corporations, lasers sold in their first year of production left much to be desired but made a good first impression. Their second year of production saw technical improvements that met the requirements for practical holography, and by the end of 1963 were good enough to make holograms of three dimensional, deep and diffuse imagery. Mostly obsolete by the end of the 1960s, very few of the Kennedy era lasers have survived. This survey is intended to identify and celebrate them, so more may be preserved as they are found, to be admired in the future.