Optical resonators having holographic elements are potential candidates for storing information that can be accessed through content-addressable or associative recall. Closely related to the resonator memory is the optical novelty filter, which can detect the differences between a test object and a set of reference objects. We discuss implementations of these devices using continuous optical media such as photorefractive ma-terials. The discussion is framed in the context of neural network models. There are both formal and qualitative similarities between the resonator memory and optical novelty filter and network models. Mode competition arises in the theory of the resonator memory, much as it does in some network models. We show that the role of the phenomena of "daydream-ing" in the real-time programmable optical resonator is very much akin to the role of "unlearning" in neural network memories. The theory of programming the real-time memory for a single mode is given in detail. This leads to a discussion of the optical novelty filter. Experimental results for the resonator memory, the real-time programmable memory, and the optical tracking novelty filter are reviewed. We also point to several issues that need to be addressed in order to implement more formal models of neural networks.