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We describe a theoretical model for the linear optical gain properties of a quantum wire assembly and compare it to the well known case of a quantum dot assembly. We also present a technique to analyze the gain of an optical amplifier using bias dependent room temperature amplified spontaneous emission spectra. Employing this procedure in conjunction with the theoretical gain model, we demonstrate that InAs/InP quantum dash structures have quantum-wire-like characteristics. The procedure was used to extract the net gain coefficient, the differential gain, and the relative current component contributing to radiative recombination. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.