Lasers capable of generating picosecond and femtosecond pulses of light are now firmly established and are widely deployed. This colloquium discusses selected aspects of the field of programmable pulse shaping, in which ultrafast laser fields are manipulated to achieve nearly arbitrary waveforms, from its inception more than twenty-five years ago until the present. The lecture begins with a brief introduction to ultrafast optics and then specifically addresses methods permitting shaping of ultrafast laser fields on time scales too fast for direct electronic control. Illustrative examples of applications, ranging from high speed optical signal transmission to new ultrafast science, will be discussed. The final section of the lecture focuses on recent work from the Weiner laboratory in which pulse shaping is applied for shaping the individual spectral lines of frequency combs generated via nonlinear wave mixing in microresonators and for manipulation of correlated photon wave packets in quantum optics.