For over 60 years, real-time control has been an important technique in the study of excitable cells. Two such control-based technologies are reviewed here. First, voltage-clamp methods revolutionized the study of excitable cells. In this family of techniques, membrane potential is controlled, allowing one to parameterize a powerful class of models that describe the voltage-current relationship of cell membranes simply, flexibly, and accurately. Second, dynamic-clamp methods allow the addition of new, “virtual” membrane mechanisms to living cells. Dynamic clamp allows researchers unprecedented ways of testing computationally based hypotheses in biological preparations. The review ends with predictions of how control-based technologies will be improved and adapted for new uses in the near future.