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High-speed, photonically amplified digital links have their performance limited by a complex combination of intersymbol interference, laser nonlinearities, and signal-dependent noise. Determination of the worst case patterns cannot rely on the classical eye diagram anymore, but requires more sophisticated computational metrics, which are discussed. A new approach to performance evaluation of these systems is based on error-rate patterns that have been proposed before as a generalization of the classical eye-diagram concept in an experimental environment. We discuss the extension of this approach to the computer-aided modeling, analysis, and design (CAMAD) of these communication links.