Since its introduction in the 1950s, the forced oscillation technique (FOT) and the measurement of respiratory impedance have evolved into powerful tools for the assessment of various mechanical phenomena in the mammalian lung during health and disease. In this review, we highlight the most recent developments in instrumentation, signal processing, and modeling relevant to FOT measurements. We demonstrate how FOT provides unparalleled information on the mechanical status of the respiratory system compared to more widely used pulmonary function tests. The concept of mechanical impedance is reviewed, as well as the various measurement techniques used to acquire such data. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of lower, physiologic frequency ranges (typically less than 10 Hz) that are most sensitive to normal physical processes as well as pathologic structural alterations. Various inverse modeling approaches used to interpret alterations in impedance are also discussed, specifically in the context of three common respiratory diseases: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and acute lung injury. Finally, we speculate on the potential role for FOT in the clinical arena.