A silicon-based, surface micromachined, deformable mirror device for optical applications requiring phase modulation, including adaptive optics and pattern recognition systems is described. The mirror will be supported on a massively parallel system of electrostatically controlled, interconnected microactuators that can be coordinated to achieve precise actuation and control at a macroscopic level. Several generations of individual actuators as well as parallel arrays of actuators with segmented/continuous mirrors have been designed, fabricated, and tested. Deflection characteristics and pull-in behavior of the actuators have been closely studied. Devices have been characterized with regard to yield, repeatability, and frequency response. An electromechanical model of the system has been simulated numerically using the shooting method, and good correlation with experimental results has been obtained. A twenty-channel parallel control scheme has been developed and implemented on a segmented mirror array.