Sam's Laser FAQ, Copyright © 1994-2004, Samuel M. Goldwasser, All Rights Reserved.
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    Laser Information Resources

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    References on Laser Principles, Technology, Construction, Applications

    Books, Collections, Other Publications

    The following are listed in no particular order and thus their position in this list does not represent any sort of rating - good, bad, or in between! See the specific comments under selected titles for recommendations.

    Note that some of these titles are quite old - truly vintage - and may be of interest more for collectible value than anything else. However, it is quite remarkable how much was actually known about the physics and technology of lasers only a couple of years after their invention!

    1. The Laser Cookbook: 88 Practical Projects
      Gordon McComb
      TAB Books Inc, 1988
      Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
      ISBN: 0-8306-9390-4 (paperback)

      This inexpensive ($21.95) book contains a wealth of interesting projects that can be performed with diode and helium-neon lasers. These projects range from interferometers, to communications, to fiberoptics, to holography, to light shows. Something for everyone. There are a few small technical errors but nothing that reading Sam's Laser FAQ won't correct. :)

      There is now a new edition with a new title. Aside from the goofy title, it sounds like an updated version of a very good book:

      Lasers, Ray Guns, & Light Cannons: Projects from the Wizard's Workbench
      McComb, Gordon
      McGraw Hill, 1997
      Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
      ISBN: 0-0704-5035-8

      Table of Contents:

      • Introduction to Lasers
      • Working with Lasers
      • Introduction to Optics
      • Experimenting with Light & Optics
      • All About Helium-Neon Lasers
      • Build a HeNe Laser
      • Constructing an Optical Bench
      • Laser Optics Experiments
      • Build a Michelson Interferometer
      • Introduction to Semiconductor Lasers
      • Laser Power Supplies; Build an Experimenter's Power Supply
      • Free-Air Laser Light Communications
      • Advanced Projects in Laser Communication
      • Lasers & Fiberoptics
      • Experiments in Laser Seismology
      • Beginning Holography
      • Advanced Holography
      • Basic Laser Light Shows
      • Advanced Laser Light Shows
      • Building Laser "Ray Guns" & Light Cannons
      • Tools & Supplies for Laser Experimentation
      • Buying Laser Parts
      • Controlling Laser Beams with Your Computer.

    2. Build your own Laser, Phaser, Ion Ray Gun & Other Working Space Age Projects
      Robert E. Iannini
      TAB Books, a division of McGraw Hill, 1983
      Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
      ISBN: 0-8306-0204-6, ISBN: 0-8306-0604-1 (paperback)

      This includes plans for a HeNe laser power supply as well as complete ruby/Nd:YAG and CO2 lasers and other interesting stuff. (The laser projects are almost identical to those in [3], below.)

    3. Build your own working Fiberoptic, Infrared, & Laser Space-Age Projects
      Robert E. Iannini
      TAB books, a division of McGraw-Hill, 1987
      Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
      ISBN: 0-8306-2724-3

      This includes plans for two HeNe laser power supplies as well as complete ruby/Nd:YAG and CO2 lasers and other interesting stuff. (The laser projects are almost identical to those in [2], above.)

    4. Scientific American, major articles and in particular, the monthly column, "The Amateur Scientist". The most relevant time period will be 1960 to 1980 but there has been more recent laser and related material. The most convenient source is [5], below.

    5. Light and its Uses, (readings from Scientific American) C. L. Strong's "The Amateur Scientist" with introductions by Jeral Walker.
      W. H. Freeman And Co., articles copyright 1952 to 1980
      ISBN: 0-7167-1184-2, ISBN: 0-7167-1185-0 (paperback)

      Extensive information on how to build lasers and how to use them, as well as info on building laser instruments (including several interferometers and spectrographs) and making holograms of various types (optical, microwave, acoustic). All of John Strong's (genius experimentalist) and Jeral Walker's columns on photonic devices are in this absolutely fabulous collection. See the section: Light and its Uses - Complete Table of Contents for a complete list of articles.

      The book describes the construction of several types of lasers by amateurs including HeNe, argon ion, dye, CO2, and nitrogen - all from scratch (e.g., the HeNe and argon lasers require glassworking to fabricate the plasma tube.) It is not for the absolute beginner but suitable for anyone who has some considerable hobbyist type experience with electronics and/or lasers.

      Note: To actually construct most of these projects requires a fair degree of skill and determination; access to some machining, glassworking, and/or high vacuum facilities; a source of electronic, optical, and mechanical components; and a stock of chemicals and other materials. However, much of this can be provided without the assets of a major R&D laboratory but will require improvisation. Nonetheless, the book makes for some very interesting and educational reading even if you are not going to be building anything. See the chapters starting with Amateur Laser Construction for more info on how to get started in home-built lasers.

    6. Various Laser Handbooks from CRC Press. Go to CRC Press - Electro-Optics/Lasers. The first three entries will set you back a bit in the $$$ department if you insist on ordering them for your private collection. But this set should include just about everything you ever wanted (or didn't want) to know about all sorts of serious laser science and technology topics. They should have what you need to be able to answer questions like: "Will a mixture of hydrogen and plutonium lase? What are its wavelengths and gain?" and other burning (no pun...) questions that keep you up at night! Yet more guaranteed cures for insomnia - check out your local university library today!

    7. Nuts and Volts magazine has a monthly column called "Laser Insight" which covers all sorts of topics from holography to building a ruby laser.

    8. Some older issues of Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics have articles on how to use HeNe lasers and power supplies for them (maybe 1980 to 1989).

    9. Forrest Mims' Circuit Scrapbook II
      Forrest Mims
      Howard Sams & Co., 1987

      This book is out of print but available at some libraries. It provides various driver circuits and a miniature laser + driver + battery built into a very small package.

      Forrest Mims has also written a number of articles on how to use and build lasers. He is also an occasional contributor to the USENET newsgroups including those on the sci.electronics hierarchy.

    10. The Laser Book - A New Technology of Light
      Clifford L. Lawrence
      Prentice Hall Press, 1986
      A division of Simon and Schuster
      New York, NY 10023
      ISBN: 0-13-523622-3

      This book includes descriptions of many common lasers, construction, and applications.

    11. Lasers and their Applications
      Kurt R. Stehling
      The World Publishing Company, 1966
      Cleveland and New York
      Library of Congress Catalog Number: 66-18464

    12. Introduction to Laser Physics
      Bela A. Lengyel
      John Wyley and Sons, Inc., 1966
      New York, London, Sydney
      Library of Congress Catalog Number: 65-27659

      If you always wanted to really understand terms like population inversion, hyperfine transitions, and quantum efficiency, this old but solid book is for you. Be prepared for some heavy math. However, it does include some practical aspects of laser construction as well.

    13. Introduction to Laser Physics
      K. Shimoda
      Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York London Paris Tokyo, 1986
      ISBN: 3-387-16713-7 (2nd edition), ISBN: 0-387-13430-1 (1st edition)

      More heavy math, less practical information than [10].

    14. The Fiberoptics and Laser Handbook
      Edward L. Safford, Jr.
      TAB books, a division of McGraw-Hill, 1984
      Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
      ISBN: 0-8306-671-8, 0-8306-1671-3 (paperback)

      Coverage of optical fibers, lenses, lasers, applications. A potpourri of topics, some rather sporadic but interesting nonetheless. Just take any circuits with a grain of silicon (if you look at Figure 7.2 you will know what I mean!).

    15. Understanding Lasers
      Jeff Hecht
      Howard W. Sams & Company, 1988
      ISBN: 0-672-27274-1

      Includes basic laser theory, descriptions of various types of lasers, some applications.

    16. Lasers - The New Technology of Light
      Charlene W. Billings
      Facts on File, Inc., 1992
      460 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
      ISBN: 0-8160-2630-0

      Introduction to lasers with emphasis on applications.

    17. Laser Experimenter's Handbook, 2nd Edition
      Delton T. Horn
      TAB books, a division of McGraw-Hill, 1988
      Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
      ISBN: 0-8306-9115-4, 0-8306-3115-1 (paperback)

      Much useful information but the only actual projects uses an IR laser diode to construct a simple communication link. And, their pathetic attempt at a laser diode driver circuit is amusing to say the least! (Hint: the design cannot possibly work as described.)

    18. Wedding Lasers to Power Supplies
      Photonics Spectra, June 1982

      This is a nice article on general power supply considerations for HeNe and (small sealed) CO2 lasers.

    19. The Electronic Bell Jaris a newsletter on high vacuum technology for amateurs which sometimes includes laser information. A vacuum system will be required if you are interested in constructing your own gas laser from scratch. Articles are archived at their web site

    20. Some of the earlier columns of "The Laser Experimenter" (1995) went into detail on how to make light shows, and how to construct the power supplies for the HeNe type of lasers.

    21. The March 1989 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine has plans for a HeNe power supply running on 12 VDC using a 555 timer chip and two transistors, a relay, and a 12 V to 280 V step-up transformer.

    22. The Blue Laser Diode - Gallium-Nitride based Light Emitters and Laser
      Shuji Nakamura and Gerhard Fasol
      Springer-Verlag, Spring 1997
      ISBN: 3-540-61590-3

    23. Laser: Super Tool of the 1980s
      Jeff Hecht and Dick Teresi
      Ticknor and Fields, New Haven and New York, 1982
      ISBN: 0-89919-08209

      Basic principles, types of lasers, applications.

    24. Lasers, Ray Guns, & Light Cannons: Projects from the Wizard's Workbench
      Gordon McComb
      McGraw-Hill, 1997
      300 Water Street, Whitby, Ontario
      ISBN: 0-07-045035-8

    25. Lasers
      Anthony E. Siegman
      University Science Books, May 1986
      ISBN: 0-935-70211-3

    26. Laser Physics
      Sargent, Scully, and Lamb

    27. Lasers: Tools of Modern Technology
      Ronald Brown
      Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1968
      Garden City, New York

    28. Lasers and Holography: An Introduction to Coherent Optics
      Winston K. Kock
      Doubleday & Company, Inc.
      First edition: 1969, second enlarged edition: 1981
      Garden City, New York

    29. ABCs of Lasers and Masers
      Allan Lytel
      Howard W. Sams & Company, 2nd printing, 1963

    30. ABCs of Lasers
      Allan Lytel
      Howard W. Sams & Company, 1966
      Indianapolis, Indiana 46206
      Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 65-24554

    31. Solid State Laser Engineering, 4th edition
      Walter Koechner
      Springer-Verlag, 1999
      ISBN: 3-540-60237-2

      They have chapters on many aspects of solid state laser system design including pulse forming networks for flashlamp systems. Latest edition has substantial material on DPSS lasers as well. The 1st through 3rd editions are well worth having as well since there is some information in earlier editions that has been dropped from later ones.

    32. Various Literature on Flash Lamps
      EG&G (now Perkin Elmer), Heraeus Noblelight, ILC, and others
      See the section: Flashlamp and Arc Lamp Manufacturers and References.

    33. American Journal of Physics

    34. The Review of Scientific Instruments, a journal dedicated to those do it yourselfers in research, that often has quite cheaply built and ingenious designs for some rather complex physics and chemical apparatus for hard scientists. The on-line version requires a subscription but you may be able to find it in print or gain access via a university library.

    35. Gas Laser Technology
      Sinclair and Bell
      ISBN: 03-075385-6

    36. Laser Electronics, 3rd edition
      Joseph T. Verdeyen
      Prentice Hall, 1994
      ISBN: 0-13706-666-X

    37. The Holography Handbook: Making Holograms the Easy Way
      Fred Unterseher, F. Ross (Editor), B. Kluepfel (Editor)
      Ross Books, June 1996 (also an earlier edition, 1982)
      ISBN: 0-89496-016-4

      This is a very well written and easy to understand book on the practical aspects of creating outstanding holograms at home.

      The following may be the earlier edition:

      The Holography Handbook
      Fred Unterseher, Jeannene Hansen, and Bob Schlesinger
      Ross Books
      ISBN: 0-89496-057-1

    38. Laser Fundamentals
      William Silfast
      ISBN: 0-521-55617-1

    39. CO2 Lasers: Effects and Applications
      W. W. Duley, 1976

    40. The Laser Guidebook, 2nd Edition
      Jeff Hecht
      Tab Books, 1992
      ISBN: 0-830-64274-9 (paperback)

      This book gives a fair amount of information on just about every type of laser ever invented or commercialized. Not a lot of details but all the basic characteristics are covered.

    41. Principles of Lasers, 4th Edition
      Orazio Svelto (Editor), David C. Hanna (Translator)
      Plenum Publishing Corporation, 1998
      ISBN: 0-306-45748-2

      This text, which empansizes the physics of lasers over the mathematics, includes many examples, tables, end-of-chapter problems with solutions provided, along with 250 illustrations. It is suitable for advanced level courses.

    42. Understanding Lasers
      Stan Gibilisco

    43. Homemade Holograms: The Complete Guide to Inexpensive, Do-It-Yourself Holography
      John Iovine
      Tab Books, 1990
      ISBN: 0-830-63460-6

    44. The Total Laser Book
      Thomas C. Altman

    45. The Laser in America, 1950-1970
      Joan Lisa Bromberg
      The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1991
      ISBN: 0-262-02318-0

      Interesting and very readable treatment of the people and developments (mainly the MASER) that laid the foundation for the invention of the laser followed by the frenetic pace of laser research and commercialization in the 1960s (the bulk of the book).

    46. What is a Laser?, 1st Edition
      Bruce Lewis. Pictures by Tom Huffman
      Dodd, Mead and Company, 1979

      Introductory level, perhaps intended for kids.

    47. Lasers: Generation of Light By Stimulated Emission
      Bela A. Lengyel
      John Wiley & Sons, 1964

    48. Physics and Technology of Laser Resonators
      D. Hall and P. Jackson (Editors)
      Adam Hilger, 1989
      ISBN: 0-852-74117-0

    49. Optics, 3rd Edition
      Eugene Hecht, Alfred Zajac, Karen Guardino (Editor)
      Addison-Wesley, August 1997
      ISBN: 0-201-83887-7

    50. Laser Fundamentals
      W. T. Silfast
      Cambridge University Press, 1996
      ISBN: 0-5215-5424-1, 0-5215-5617-1 (paperback)

    51. Principles and Practice of Laser Technology, 1st Edition
      Hrand M. Muncheryan
      Tab Books, 1983
      ISBN: 0-6722-1588-8

    52. Laser and Optoelectronic Engineering (Series in Electrical Engineering)
      Hrand M. Muncheryan
      Hemisphere, 1991
      ISBN: 1-5603-2062-1

    53. Laser Fundamentals and Applications
      Hrand M. Muncheryan
      ISBN: 0-6722-1130-0 (paperback)

    54. Masers and Lasers, 1st edition
      H. Arthur Klein, illustrated by Frank Aloise
      J. P. Lippincott, 1963, revised: 1971

    55. Optoelectronics, Fiber Optics, and Laser Cookbook
      Thomas Petruzzellis
      McGraw-Hill, May 1997
      ISBN: 0-0704-9839-3, 0-0704-9840-7 (paperback)

    56. Semiconductor Diode Lasers
      Streifer and Ettenberg
      IEEE Press, 1991
      ISBN: 0-87942-261-0

    57. Laser Light
      Herman Schneider, illustrated by Radu Vero
      McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1978

    58. Masers and Lasers: How They Work, What They Do
      M. Brotherton
      McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964

    59. Lasers
      George R Harrison
      Franklin Watts, Inc., 1971

    60. Gas Lasers
      C. G. B. Garrett
      McGraw Hill, 1967

    61. Laser Technology
      Hrand M. Muncheryan
      Howard Sams, 1979

    62. Fundamentals of Photonics
      B. E. A. Saleh and M. C. Teich, (Edited by J. W. Goodman)
      Wiley Series in Pure and Applied Optics
      John Wiley and Sons, 1991
      ISBN: 0-471-83965-5

    63. Principles of Holography, 2nd edition
      Howard M. Smith
      John Wiley and Sons, 1975

    64. Industrial Applications of Lasers
      Edited by Hans Koebner
      Wiley-Interscience, 1984

    65. Lasers
      Peter W. Milonni and Joseph H. Eberly
      John Wiley and Sons, 1988
      ISBN: 0-471-62731-3

    66. Lasers and Optical Engineering
      P. Das
      Springer-Verlag, 1991

    67. Diode Lasers and Photonic Integrated Circuits
      Wiley Series in Microwave and Opitcal Engineering
      Coldren Corzine
      John Wiley & Sons, 1995

    68. Tunable Lasers Handbook
      Edited by F. J. Duarte
      ISBN: 0-12-222695-X

    69. Laser and Electro-optics Fundamentals and Engineering
      Christopher C. Davis
      ISBN: 0-521-48403-0

    70. Molecular Gas Lasers, Physics and Applications
      Edited by E. P. Velikhov
      MIR of Moscow, 1981

    71. The handbook of Lasers
      Marvin J. Webber

    72. The handbook of Laser Wavelengths
      Marvin J. Webber

    73. Lasers
      Hal Hellman
      U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Devision of Technical Information, Understanding the Atom Series, 1969

    74. The Laser Experimenter's Handbook
      Frank McAleese
      TAB Books, 1981

    75. Gas Lasers
      A. L. Bloom
      John Wiley & Sons, 1968

    76. Lasers and Applications
      W. S. C. Chang (Ed.)
      Ohio State University, 1963

    77. Understanding Lasers and Masers
      Stanley Leinwoll
      John F. Rider Publisher, New York, 1965

    78. Laser Clinic
      Skip Campisi
      Poptronics, June 2001

      Power supply circuits for an HeNe laser tube and 4 difrerent laser diodes.

    79. Light, Lasers, and Optics
      John H. Mauldin
      TAB books, a division of McGraw-Hill, 1988
      Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
      ISBN: 0-8306-9338-6

    80. A Look Inside Lasers
      Jim Johnson

    81. Lasers - Laser Activities for the Classroom
      Harold P. Woods, Joseph R. Verboys, and George A. Evans

    82. How to Build a Low-Cost Laser
      Ronald M. Benrey
      Hayden Publishing, 1974

    83. The Laser - Light That Never Was Before
      Ben Patrusky

    84. The Applications of Holography
      H. J. Caulfield and Sun Lu
      Wiley Interscience, 1970

    85. Atomic Light Lasers - What they are and how they work
      Richard Nehrich
      Sterling Publishing, 1967

    86. Lasers, The Light Fantastic, A complete course in modern laser technology
      Clayton L. Hallmark
      Tab Books, 1981

    87. Lasers - Harnessing the Atom's Light
      James P. Harbison and Robert E. Nahory
      Scientific American, 1998

    88. Lasers - Operation, Equipment, Application and Design
      The Engineering Staff of Coherent, Inc., 1980

    89. Understanding Laser Technology: An Intuitive Introduction to Basic and Advanced Laser Concepts
      C. Breck Hitz
      PennWell Books, 1985

    90. Lasers - What They Do and How They Work
      Usborne New Technology, 1984

    91. Atomic Physics of Lasers
      Derek Eastham
      Taylor and Francis, 1986
      ISBN: 0-85066-343-1

    92. Lasers and Light - Readings from Scientific American
      Introduction by Arthur L. Schawlow
      Scientific American

    93. Semiconductor Diode Lasers, 1st edition
      Ralph W. Campbell and Forrest M Mims III

    94. Molecular Gas Lasers: Physics and Applications
      E. P. Velikhov (editor)
      Mir (Moscow), 1981

    95. Lasers, Light Amplifiers and Oscillators
      Dieter Ross
      Academic Press, 1969

    96. The Amazing Laser
      A Franklin Institute Book, 1971

    97. Laser Engineering
      Kelin J. Kuhn

    98. High Power Lasers and Applications
      K. L. Kompa and H. Walther (editors)
      Springer-Verlag, 1978

    99. How to Build a Low-Cost Laser
      Ronald N. Benrey
      Hayden Book Company, Inc.

    100. Lasers - The Miracle Light
      Larry Kettelkamp

    101. Understanding Science - Lasers
      Warwick Press, 1982

    102. The Inside Story - Lasers
      Charles De Vere, 1984

    103. High Energy Lasers and Their Applications
      Steven Jacobs, Murray Sargent III, Marlan O. Scully
      Addison-Wesley, 1974

    104. Science in Action - Lasers
      William Burroughs

    105. Lasers, Light Amplifiers, and Oscillators
      Dieter Rvss
      Academic Press, 1969

    106. Lasers: Principles and Applications
      J. Wilson and J.F.B. Hawkes
      Prentice Hall International series in optoelectronics
      Perntice Hall
      ISBN: 0-13-523697-5 (paperback)

    107. Elements of Maser Theory
      Arthur A. Vuylsteke (Physics Department of General Motors), 1960

      This one is pre-laser!

    108. Introduction to Optics and Lasers in Engineering
      Gabriel Laufer
      Cambridge University Press, 1996

    109. Optical Electronics, 3rd edition
      Amnon Yariv (California Institute of Technology)
      Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985

    110. Optics and Lasers Including Fibers and Optical Waveguides
      M. Young
      Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1986

    111. Laser Physics
      L. V. Tarasov
      Mir Publishers, Moscow, 1983

    112. Physics of Semiconductor Laser Devices
      G. H. B. Thompson
      John Wiley, 1980

    113. Free Electron Lasers
      S. Martellucci and A. N. Chester (editors)
      Plenum Press, 1983

    114. Understanding Holography, Second Edition
      Michael Wenyon
      Arco Publishing, Inc., 1985

    115. The Engineering Uses of Holography
      Elliot R. Robertson and James M. Harvery (editors)
      Cambridge University Press, 1970

    116. Coherent Light
      A. F. Harvey
      John Wiley, 1970

    117. The Essense of Optoelectronics
      Kathryn Booth and Steven Hill

    118. Introduction to Laser Diode-Pumped Solid State Lasers
      Richard Scheps

    You may be able to find many of these items in a large public or university library. The old issues of magazines are often on microfilm or microfiche. Older books like "Light and its Uses" [5] may be locked away in the dungeons of the library's archives so you may have to ask for them.

    Free Lasers/Optics Trade Magazines

    There are several 'trade rags' for the laser and optics industry. Although advertising-heavy like those for electronics and other fields, they do have many interesting cutting edge articles of interest to hobbyists, experimenters, and researchers alike. It should be possible to obtain a free subscription if you are either a student or can convince them that you might be in a position to buy or recommend laser and/or optics related products. Even if your business or 'official' occupation has nothing to do with lasers, it won't hurt to try for a subscription.

    Most of these publications also feature an email service to keep you informed of the latest hot industry news with links to associated on-line articles. You can generally subscribe to these with even fewer or no questions asked as long as you have an email address.

    The major players are probably Photonics Spectra, Laser Focus World, and Lasers& Optronics Magazine For additional possibilities, see the section: Laser Related Publications.

    Occasionally, there may be a bonus issue like the telephone book thickness "2000 Buyers Guide" from Laser Focus World or the full color spectrum (and other laser info) wall chart found in the August, 2000 issue of Photonics Spectra (that is, if your office mate didn't beat you to it!).

    Subscriptions to both the publication and email news service are available via their Web sites.


    A great deal of general information is publicly available in the form of U.S. (and foreign) patents. With the modern computer age, searching for any and all types of information is possible via a number of patent database web sites. Many of these charge for full access but some are still free.

    In the good old days (say 2 years ago), IBM had a patent database Web site which included complete text and graphics for patents covering most of the years relevant to lasers and it was totally free. That was then taken over by another organization (I refuse to help with their cash flow by naming them) resulting in a blitz of banner ads. Now, with the crash of the .bom, oops, .com bubble, they are charging for graphics downloads via subscription (text is still free). (Should by any chance someone from that unnamed company read this, I have no problem with charging for regular commercial use of a patent database. However, for the private individual who browses occasional patents to satisfy their curiosity rather than commercial gain, I think that the best approach would be to allow limited free access to the graphics - say 30 patents/month. This would cost you nothing and would generate good will and recommendations rather than abuse. And I wouldn't have removed 37 links to your service from my Web site!)

    For now, I would recommend the US Patent & Trademark Office. They are free (your tax dollars at work!) and have complete text and graphics but require that your browser has a late model TIFF reader plug-in. It must be able to display TIFF files using ITU T.6 or CCITT Group 4 (G4) compression. See their: Patent Full-Page Images Help Page for information on system requirements and recommended plug-ins.

    Patents may be located by number, subject, inventor, (and other fields), or boolean text, as well as more advanced criteria. All patents referenced by a particular patent as well as all patents which reference that patent may be instantly located. The complete patent documents including diagrams are available at this web site for download. Copies may also be ordered (for a small fee).

    Searching on the key word 'laser' will turn up too many patents to consider. However, narrowing this with 'semiconductor' or 'driver' will restrict the search enough to home in on patents of interest. There will still be many that are likely to be of interest - you can spend days (or longer) at this!

    Of course, it is also possible to search for patents the old fashioned way at your local large public library or by browsing the main patent office stacks in Washington, DC. However, these sorts of methods seam terribly archaic in comparison to the use of a modern patent database engine.

  • Back to Laser Information Resources Sub-Table of Contents.

    Newsgroups, Discussion Groups and Technical Forums, Listservers

    Laser Related USENET Newsgroups

    USENET newsgroups are public bulletin board-like forums for discussions of any sort of topic under the Sun (and beyond). There are over 20,000 active newsgroups in the USA alone and more are being created every microsecond.

    I know of two newsgroups most suitable for discussion of laser related topics:

    Generally, sci.optics is to be preferred as it attracts many serious and knowledgeable participants. However, quite often, questions may appear only on alt.lasers. There are many others that may be of interest including, sci.optics.fiber, those in the sci.electronics and sci.physics hierarchies, and more. Check with your ISP to determine what is available - it may be possible to request they add specific groups.

    As with any type of discussion group, listen before you dive in. Get a feel for the types of questions that are typical and do not post a reply unless you are fairly confident of your answer! Basic questions are acceptable but it is proper etiquette to first attempt to locate the answer by checking past postings by searching at Google Groups (formerly or one of the other public USENET archives.

    A FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document also exists for sci.optics. The Sci.Optics FAQ may already have answered your question as well.

    If you don't know how to access USENET newsgroups, check with your ISP (Internet Service Provider - maybe it's even in the user manual - what a concept!), or your local system administrator or network guru. Usually News access is via the software provided by your ISP, from within your Web browser (e.g., Netscape or Internet Explorer), through the use of a special News utility, or from within other programs like GNUS EMACS. Some initial configuration will have to be done to identify the NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) server (your newsfeed) to whatever software you are using - this is site specific - your ISP or keeper of the magic will know. :)

    Laser Discussion Groups and Technical Forums

    These are basically private newsgroups and accessible through a Web link rather than the normal USENET protocol. In some cases, posting (but not reading) may be possible by sending email to a specific address. Some may require registration but there is no charge. In general, I do not see any really compelling reason to use this approach when appropriate USENET newsgroups exist - as they do for laser science, technology, and applications with alt.lasers and sci.optics. For other laser light show discussion groups, check out the links in the section: Laser (Email) Listservers. (There may also be chatrooms included here since chatrooms are sort of like real-time discussion groups.) The main reason some of the forums and chatrooms exist is to get people to go the commercial sites of those who started them (via advertisements, gyrating links, etc.). Not surprisingly, the traffic on most of these is minimal.

    Of these, the first two are most likely to deal with laser technology, engineering, construction, and repair. As with the other technical forums, traffic is relatively low but worth checking and posting with serious questions since people who are knowledgeable are likely to monitor these discussion groups.

  • SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering would probably be considered the predominant photonics professional organization. They are now hosting a number of technical forums which can be found at the SPIE Technical Group Home Page. These are intended to replace their email discussion groups. The one most relevant to our needs is called "Laser Sources".

  • There are also a number of email discussion groups associated with the International Laser Display Association (ILDA) which deal with all aspects of laser display and entertainment including technical, safety, and regulatory issues. Information on these can be found by sending email to: with the words: "info lists" (without the "") for a list of the available discussion groups and "info commands" for a list of the listserver commands in the body of the message.

  • Photonics On-Line hosts a number of what they call 'Discussion Forums' (by now you should get the idea that all these are basically the same thing!). The traffic on the one for lasers is quite light (and postings seem to have been picked up from USENET newsgroups as well):

  • has a long list of photonics related discussion forums (way too long in my opinion). There is one on lasers with exactly one (1) article presently (July, 2001) and that was posted by the moderator.

  • Another laser show oriented site is Tele Monster's Laser Show Site which includes message boards for hobbyist laser show discussions, classifieds, and technical show discussions.

  • And one for holography: at Colin Kaminski's Holography Forum.

  • For topics related to amateur laser construction and other amateur scientist activities, check out the following:

    The fourm include topics from Scientific American, the SAS, general research and experimentation, and a variety of other science related discussions. Laser specific traffic is quite small but the high chance of finding someone with similar interests balances this out to some extent!

  • Finally, here are a pair of chat rooms and discussion groups hosted by companies that sell all sorts of weird stuff. Thus, they don't only deal with lasers. These forums can provide minutes of entertainment. :) (See the section: Electronic, Optics, and Laser Project Plans, Parts, Kits, Specialized Components, near the end, and you will understand why I use the word "amusement" with respect to these companies.)

    There may be additional discussion groups and technical forums associated with specific Web sites not listed above - sorry, I wish I could keep up with all of them!

    Laser (Email) Listservers

    Unlike USENET newsgroups which are accessible via most on-line services and ISPs, listservers are email discussion groups which must be subscribed to usually by sending a special email message to the listserver host. Depending on the charter, these may be available to everyone but some are restricted.

    Once subscribed, all email sent to a specified address is distributed to all users of the listserver group. Thus, you can elect to participate in any or all discussions, or simply just monitor the traffic for your own interest or research. As with USENET newsgroups, don't jump into a discussion without having an idea of the context - what has already transpired and then only if you have a valid question or can contribute in a knowledgeable way to the discussion.

    You can find a large number of totally public lists at Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists and at - Lists but these sites have few, if any, related to our types of laser discussions (unless you are interested in laser eye surgery). But never fear, there *are* others available.

    The following are some general laser listservers with information on the charters and how to subscribe:

  • Back to Laser Information Resources Sub-Table of Contents.

    Laser and Optics Related Links

    Searching for Laser Information on the Web

    It is often possible to get a good starting point on finding relevant Web sites with a simple Net search such as provided by Altavista, Lycos, Yahoo, and many others. With just a little care with the selection of key words and search parameters, an assortment of high quality links are often returned on the first shot. Though, with the wrong search, you may end up with a bunch of junk! :) Some of the search engines will also suggest additional lists of sites with similar technology (sometimes they are even relevant to your interests!).

    USENET newsgroup postings for the last several years can also be searched via Google Groups (formerly While there are other public USENET archives, although the name keeps changing, Google Groups probably has the largest and most reliable newsgroup coverage and goes back the farthest (to 1995). Thus I see little reason to use other archives which may come and go and provide more sporatic coverage.

    Private discussion groups and technical forums often have searchable archives as well. See the section: Newsgroups, Discussion Groups and Technical Forums, Listservers

    The sections that follow provide links to many other laser related sites with the first of these being a Webring currently under development. This should be of particular interest to the hobbyist and experimenter.

    Several hundred links have been accumulated over time from various USENET newsgroups, other discussion groups and technical forums, Net searches, links found at other Web sites, and private email. They are loosely grouped by the type of information provided but are otherwise only in somewhat more-or-less alphabetical order.

    (Also see: Sam's Neat, Nifty, and Handy Bookmarks for additional Web site listings.)

    The Laser, Optics, and Holography Ring

    A Webring is a collection of related sites linked by a virtual hub maintained by Webring.Org. This should facilitate convenient navigation among them and minimize the overhead in maintaining HTML links at multiple locations as sites come and go or change their URLs.

    The Laser, Optics, and Holography Ring brings together Websites that either are about lasers, optics and holography, or contain information in related areas. It was developed, and is owned and managed by Flavio Spedalieri ( of Nightlase Technologies.

    Laser Safety Sites (May Also Include Other Laser Information)

    General Laser Information and Tutorial Sites

    Amateur Laser Construction Sites

    Amateur Laser Communications Sites

    High Power Laser and Laser Research Sites

    Laser and Optics Organizations

    Links to Many Laser Related Sites and Manufacturers

    Laser and Optics Related Dynamic Links

    These sites provide constantly updated links to papers, articles, publications, manufacturers, directories, etc., on selected topic areas as well as free email notification when new links are added. Both the homepage and the one(s) for lasers and/or optics are listed below

    Laser Related Publications

    Laser Show and Other Laser Entertainment Sites

    Note: These are mainly sites that include useful information or links. There are some additional light show production sites listed in Sam's Neat, Nifty, and Handy Bookmarks

    Holography Sites

    Laser Related Schematics and Plans

    There are, of course, numerous circuit diagrams and complete schematics within Sam's Laser FAQ and at other resources of the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ or its Mirror Sites. The links below are to other miscellaneous and assorted sites which have actual circuit diagrams and/or complete construction plans for laser power supplise, communicators, and other laser/optics related systems (Most of the sites are also referenced elsewhere in this document.) This list is by no means complete and some may also be included in other sections which deal more specifically with their application rather than here. The order of these is somewhat random. :)

    Hobbyist/Personal/Miscellaneous Laser and Optics Sites

  • Back to Sam's Laser FAQ Table of Contents
  • Back to Laser Information Resources Sub-Table of Contents
  • Forward to Laser and Parts Sources

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    I may be contacted via the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Email Links Page.