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The measurement of the spectrum of the output of an autocorrelator is proven to be sufficient for a complete determination of the complex electric field of an ultrashort light pulse, both in amplitude and phase, except for the time-reversal ambiguity which can be easily overcome in experiments. An iterative algorithm is proposed to retrieve the complex electric held from the experimental data. A numerical simulation proves the remarkable reliability and efficiency of the method. An experimental demonstration shows the simplicity of this technique