Surprising as it might seem, it is possible to phase-coherently track, synthesize, count and divide optical frequencies of visible laser sources. In essence, the technologies described here now allow direct connection of basically any frequency from DC to 1000 THz. Modern 'self-referenced' femtosecond mode-locked lasers have enormously simplified the required technology. These revolutionary new systems build on a long history of optical frequency metrology that spans from the early days of the laser. The latest systems rely heavily on technologies previously developed for laser frequency stabilization, optical phase-locked-loops, nonlinear mixing, ultra-fast optics and precision opto-electronic metrology. Using examples we summarize some of the heroic efforts that led to the successful development of harmonic optical frequency chains. Those systems played critical roles in defining the speed of light and in redefining the metre. We then describe the present state-of-the-art technology in femtosecond laser frequency combs, their extraordinary performance capabilities and some of the latest results.
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