During the last quarter of the twentieth century, our knowledge about human genetic variation was limited mainly to the heterochromatin polymorphisms, large enough to be visible in the light microscope, and the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified by traditional PCR-based DNA sequencing. In the past five years, the rapid development and expanded use of microarray technologies, including oligonucleotide array comparative genomic hybridization and SNP genotyping arrays, as well as next-generation sequencing with "paired-end" methods, has enabled a whole-genome analysis with essentially unlimited resolution. The discovery of submicroscopic copy-number variations (CNVs) present in our genomes has changed dramatically our perspective on DNA structural variation and disease. It is now thought that CNVs encompass more total nucleotides and arise more frequently than SNPs. CNVs, to a larger extent than SNPs, have been shown to be responsible for human evolution, genetic diversity between individuals, and a rapidly increasing number of traits or susceptibility to traits; such conditions have been referred to as genomic disorders. In addition to well-known sporadic chromosomal microdeletion syndromes and Mendelian diseases, many common complex traits including autism and schizophrenia can result from CNVs. Both recombination- and replication-based mechanisms for CNV formation have been described.