Compound semiconductors, in the form of GaAs and InP have achieved major commercial significance in areas of application such as mobile communications, displays and telecoms and offer a versatility of function beyond the capabilities of Si. III-V compounds, and in particular GaAs, have since their early development been the subject of defence related interest. Support from this sector established the basic materials technologies and nurtured development up until their commercial breakthrough into consumer products. GaAs, for example, now provides essential components for mobile phones and CD / DVD players. An overview is presented of the crystal growth and processing methods used in the manufacture of these materials. Current state of the art characteristics on crystal form and quality are discussed, together with the evolution of single crystal growth techniques. Consideration is given to how these principal compounds together with the minor materials, InSb, GaSb and InAs are employed in diverse applications over a broad spectral range, together with information on markets and future perspectives.