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Since the demonstration of the possibility of achieving very low noise amplification of signals in the centimetric wavebands, a great deal of work has been carried out in various laboratories with a view to producing and testing devices. The major part of the present article focuses attention on one particular device, the three-level solid-state maser. The physical principles underlying the process of stimulated emission of radiation are in many cases unfamiliar to electronic engineers, and study of the growing literature on the subject can be confusing without a clear understanding of the physics involved. The present article outlines the general theory of emission and radiation processes, particularly as they apply to the microwave spectrum. A quantum mechanical description is employed throughout, and a brief and not very rigorous account is given of the relevant portions of this theory as it applies to the investigation of transistors between energy levels. Well-known expressions are derived for the operating characteristics of a three-level maser, particular attention being given to the significance of the various factors involved and their relationship to easily measured quantities. Little information is included concerning practical maser amplifiers; at the time of writing, few practical devices had been constructed. A survey of recent literature indicates the rapid progress which has since been made, and shows the interest in the development of masers.