A system to convert an analog optical system to a digital one in an optical environment using basic symmetric self‐electro‐optic effect devices (S‐SEEDs) is detailed. It is shown that quantization and binary encoding can readily be achieved using the logic capabilities of S‐SEEDs. A quantizer prototype has been constructed and proper operation observed. The effect of the hysteresis inherent in the S‐SEED is discussed and three techniques are proposed to eliminate the problems caused by hysteresis. The logic operations needed for the construction of the binary encoder with the minimum number of S‐SEEDs are facilitated using a reference beam. An alternate, efficient design of the binary encoder is also presented. Using a novel time quantization technique, a sampling rate in excess of 1 gigasamples/s is achievable. © 1996 Society of Photo−Optical Instrumentation Engineers.