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Methods for direct modulation of semiconductor lasers are reviewed with the objective of indicating the advantages and limitations of each method. Techniques for producing amplitude, pulse, and frequency modulation of the optical wave are included. The modulation capabilities of present pulsed lasers are analyzed with special attention given to their operation at room temperature. In addition, several ways of producing analog position or width modulation of microwave-rate optical pulses are described, and the capabilities of optical frequency modulation by acoustic waves are reviewed. A new way of obtaining mode-locked optical pulses with a semiconductor laser is also suggested.