There is a great diversity of types of lasers and hundreds of possible lasing wavelengths available to optical systems designers today. Laser requirements for recording and information handling often call for specific wavelengths, power levels, and other physical and optical characteristics. This paper presents an overview of four major types of gas lasers suitable for these applications and a comparison of the performance characteristics of each. The review covers He-Ne lasers, He-Cd metal vapor lasers, and argon and krypton ion lasers. The characteristics of the individual laser types include output power level, wavelength output stability, optical noise, input power, cooling requirements and operational reliability.