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Summary form only given. Real-time characterization of ultrashort optical pulses is critical for a number of important emerging applications: adaptive phase control for oscillator and amplifier optimization, quantum control with learning feedback, laser diagnostics, nonlinear pulse propagation and ultrafast spectroscopy. To date, however, most techniques that return quantitative, high resolution information about the pulse shapes do so at a sub-Hertz repetition rate. It is possible to increase the acquisition rate in certain cases by using a reduced resolution spectrogram and dedicated signal processing hardware, as has been demonstrated by Kane (1998). We present a real-time pulse measurement-device that has no moving components, requires only one-dimensional data collection, and uses a noniterative inversion algorithm. Our technique, spectral phase interferometry for direct electric-field reconstruction (SPIDER), retrieves the spectral phase of the input pulses at an update rate of greater than 15 Hz using an inexpensive linear CCD array and standard data acquisition hardware in a desktop computer that implements the simple and rapid inversion algorithm in LabView.