New side-chain liquid crystalline polyesters have been prepared by melt transesterification of diphenyl tetradecanedioate and a series of mesogenic 2-[omega-[4-[(4-cyanophenyl)azo]phenoxyl] alkyl]-1,3-propanediols, where the alkyl spacer is hexa-, octa-, and decamethylene in turn. The polyesters have molecular masses in the range 5000-89 000. Solution C-13 NMR spectroscopy has been employed to identify carbons of polyester repeat units and of both types of end groups. Polyester phases and phase transitions have been investigated in detail by polarizing optical microscopy and differential scanning calorimetry for the hexamethylene spacer architecture with different molecular masses. Using FTIR polarization spectroscopy, the segmental orientation in unoriented polyester films induced by argon ion laser irradiation has been followed and an irradiation-dependent order parameter for the cyanoazobenzene mesogens calculated. FTIR is also utilized to follow the temperature-dependent erasure of the induced orientation. Optical storage properties of thin unoriented polyester films are examined through measurements of polarization anisotropy and holography. A resolution of over 5000 lines/mm and diffraction efficiencies of about 40% have been achieved. Lifetimes greater than 30 months for information stored have been obtained, even though the glass transition temperatures are about 20 degrees C. Complete erasure of the information can be obtained by heating the films to about 80 degrees C, and the films can be reused many times without fatigue.