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This paper reviews the field of high-speed small-aperture modulators for applications in optical communications, with emphasis on electrooptic modulation. The capabilities and limitations of electrooptic modulators are discussed based on a review of the physical origin of the electrooptic effect. Thermal and photoconduction phenomena, which may severely limit the operation of practical devices, are emphasized. The modulation power and bandwidth limitations using various schemes of electrooptic interaction are derived and compared. It is shown that lumped modulators are capable of efficient modulation for bandwidths up to about 1 GHz for visible wavelengths and are also attractive for their simplicity. For broader bandwidth capability the traveling wave or zigzag types of interaction become more efficient but with added complexity. Finally, acoustooptic and magnatooptic modulators are briefly discussed and compared with electrooptic modulators.