We describe the effort to design and construct a high‐speed low‐energy digital optical processor that is currently in progress at OptiComp Corporation. The reasons for believing that it is possible to build optical processors that have lower switch energies than are possible with electronic processors are discussed. Two systems, a second‐generation digital optical computer (DOC II) and a high‐performance optoelectronic computer (HPOC), which are under development at OptiComp, are described. Both systems are based on high optical fan‐out emitters and high optical fan‐in detectors. Finally, potential practical applications for the high‐performance optoelectronic computer are discussed. © 1996 Society of Photo−Optical Instrumentation Engineers.