Recent attempts to purchase 780 nm laser diodes for my experiment, made me realize how much atomic physics and laser cooling labs have become entangled with the optical disk industry. Rapid developments in optical drive industry, which made Rubidium so easily accessible to every Tom, Dick and Harry working on atomic physics few years back is now making our lives difficult by rendering, once easily available technology, obsolete faster than ever. 150 mW 780 nm laser diodes which formed the heart of 48X CD burners, could be picked up for a few bucks from Digikey or Farnell, a few years back. Diodes with similar specs are now only available from specialized industrial and research laser vendors for a price that is atleast 2 orders of magnitude higher than the price when CD burners were ubiquitous.
Ofcourse the silver lining is, with the shift towards Blu-ray, wavelengths around 400nm, which once could only be achieved with the not-so-cheap non-linear frequency doubling crystals, have now become much more easily accessible.
(Anyway, have been successful in getting a handful of obsolete 150mW 780nm diodes from some random Chinese seller on eBay at dirt cheap prices! Yet to check their mode stability though, but quite hopeful from the specs! All hail the great Chinese manufacturers. Someone said it right-- God made the Chinese, rest was "Made in China"!)