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We are developing a prototype automatic DNA sequencer which utilizes polyacrylamide slab gels imaged through a novel optical detection system. The design of this prototype sequencer allows the ability to perform direct optical coupling over the entire read area of the gel and hyperspectrographic separation and detection of the fluorescence emission. The machine has no moving parts. All the major components incorporated in this prototype are all currently available “off the shelf,” thus reducing equipment development time and decreasing costs. Software developed for data acquisition, analysis, and conversion to other standard formats facilitates compatibility. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.