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The steady-state and dynamic behavior of a bistable laser resonator containing two semiconductor elements is examined theoretically. We derive necessary conditions for the bistable operation of the cavity and the constraints on the amplifier and absorber element characteristics imposed by these conditions. Our rate equation model demonstrates turn-on and turn-off of the output via current pulses, overshoot and ringing using fast rise time pulses, and critical slowing down when either the absorber or amplifier is switched. We give numerical results on switching.