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The vacuum arc ion source has evolved over the past 20 years into a standard laboratory tool for the production of high current beams of metal ions, and is now used in a number of different embodiments at many laboratories around the world. The primary application of this kind of source has evolved to be ion implantation for material surface modification. Another important use is for injection of high current beams of heavy metal ions into the front ends of particle accelerators, and much excellent work has been carried out in recent years in optimizing the source for reliable accelerator application. The source also provides a valuable tool for the investigation of the fundamental plasma physics of vacuum arc plasma discharges. As the use of the source has grown and diversified, at the same time, the ion source performance and operational characteristics have been improved in a variety of different ways also. Here we review the growth and status of vacuum arc ion sources around the world and summarize some of the applications for which the sources have been used.