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In this paper, we design and test a radiation-tolerant opto-electronic transmitter based on vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) and dedicated driver electronics consisting of discrete components. VCSELs have already demonstrated their good radiation tolerance level. We confirm this by on-line irradiation experiments on such devices up to a 10-MGy total dose. For the design of the driver circuit, we rely on discrete commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) bipolar transistors. When the radiation induced degradation of these components is considered within the design of the circuits, total dose levels larger than 1 MGy can be tolerated. The driver uses standard Transistor-Transistor Logic TTL input signals and delivers a forward current of 12 mA to a pigtailed 840-nm VCSEL. SPICE simulations show that the driver still delivers a sufficient forward current to the VCSEL in spite of the radiation induced degradation of the hFE and VCESat values of the transistors. These simulations are verified by our experiments. At a total dose of 1 MGy, the measured decrease of the forward current is only about 8%, as measured for three driver circuits. This induces an optical output power decrease that can still be tolerated with irradiated VCSELs, as shown by our experiments. We conclude that a high total dose hardened optical transmitter for use in nuclear instrumentation systems can be fabricated using discrete COTS bipolar transistors, COTS vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, and COTS optical fiber.