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An optical device is a device that processes light waves into electrical signals which can then be sent via a fiber optic cable to the computer. The majority of optical devices use a diode to convert the light into electrical signals, but some also use optoelectronic devices. Optical devices may be solid-state, or semi-conductor, or may use a combination of both. Solid-state devices are those which have all of the electrical conductors in a device together, while semi-conductor devices are those which have most of the components in a device together but not all of them. Optical devices are used for communication, high-speed electronics, optical measurements, refraction, spectroscopy, and telecommunications.

A common optical device is an optical scanner, which uses light beams to produce an optical reading on objects. There are several different types of optical scanners available including fiber-optic scanners, optical particle scanners, and optical time and distance scanners. Fiber-optic scanners work by using an optical fiber to transmit the light which is to be analyzed, via the optical detector, back to the optical source and measured. Most fiber-optic scanners operate at higher frequencies than other types of optical devices, such as digital optical scan systems and optical pulse technology.

Electromagnetic radiation is another major component of the environment, which can cause problems for optical devices. The majority of people are unaware of the fact that electromagnetic radiation can affect the performance of an optical device. Electromagnetic radiation includes x-rays, gamma rays, radio waves, infrared, microwaves, and ultra-violet rays. The majority of optical devices work by accepting and emitting electromagnetic radiation, rather than electromagnetic radiation themselves. The energy levels which are emitted by these various sources can affect how well an optical device operates, by limiting the bandwidth that a device can use, increasing the potential power drain, and changing the electrical currents flow through a device.

The first optical device was invented in 1993 when NASA scientists developed the lensmaker equation. This equation states that the light which passes through one lens will focus on a fixed point in the lens, while light passing through the other lens will not focus on any particular point. By using a rotating cylinder that contains a hole, the scientists enabled light to pass through the cylinder at various angles. When the image becomes an object, the focal length increases as the cylinder rotates.

The lens system became a success because it solved many viewing problems which existed. The first optical device was a plate-and-frame camera. These types of cameras worked by having a small picture frame on a wall, which contained a small camera. When the viewer looked through the viewing window, the image became the focused lens system, and the camera captured the image and displayed it on the wall.

The same principles used in optical devices can be applied to digital cameras and televisions. A recent development called image registering Digital Video cameras can use the same principles as the old camera lucida method, but the images are registered digitally. The principle is similar, except that instead of light being focused on a lens, it is registered digitally. In order to register digital images, an optical device containing a scanner and a computer is used. After the digital images have been registered, the images can be displayed on a television or a computer monitor.

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