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This paper, originally presented at the 1961 WESCON Convention, is intended as an introduction to the principles and possible applications of the optical maser. Very little prior knowledge on the part of the reader is assumed. The intent is to acquaint him with these exciting new devices with the hope that he, in turn, will discover applications not foreseen by the author. The methods of generating coherent radiation, of focussing it, and of collimating it into tight beams are described. The use of lasers for communication is explored, and certain medical and other applications are suggested.