A modulator for modulating an incident beam of light, the modulator comprising a plurality of equally spaced-apart elements, each of which includes a light-reflective planar surface. The elements are arranged parallel to each other with their light-reflective surfaces parallel to each other. The modulator includes means for supporting the elements in relation to one another and means for moving particular ones of the elements relative to others so that the moved elements transit between a first configuration wherein the modulator acts to reflect the incident beam of light as a plane mirror, and a second configuration wherein the modulator diffracts the light reflected therefrom. In operation the light-reflective surfaces of the elements remain parallel to each other in both the first and second configurations. The perpendicular spacing between the reflective surfaces of the respective elements is equal to m/4 .times. the wavelength of the incident beam of light, wherein m equals an even whole number or zero when the elements are in the first configuration and m equals an odd whole number when the elements are in the second configuration.