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A time-domain simulator for vertical external cavity semiconductor lasers (VECSEL) is described in detail. The core of the model employs a digital filter method to model the optical properties of the active mirror over a wide range of frequencies, temperatures, and carrier densities. The method is also applicable without modifications to the time-domain simulation of semiconductor saturable mirrors (SESAM). As an illustration, ultrashort pulse generation is simulated in two kinds of devices: in a synchronously pumped VECSEL and in a laser passively mode-locked by SESAM.