The array CGH technique (Array Comparative Genome Hybridization) has been developed to detect chromosomal copy number changes on a genome-wide and/or high-resolution scale. It is used in human genetics and oncology, with great promise for clinical application. Until recently primarily PCR amplified bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) or cDNAs have been spotted as elements on the array. The large-scale DNA isolations or PCR amplifications of the large-insert clones necessary for manufacturing the arrays are elaborate and time-consuming. Lack of a high-resolution highly sensitive (commercial) alternative has undoubtedly hindered the implementation of array CGH in research and diagnostics. Recently, synthetic oligonucleotides as arrayed elements have been introduced as an alternative substrate for array CGH, both by academic institutions as well as by commercial providers. Oligonucleotide libraries or ready-made arrays can be bought off-the-shelf saving considerable time and efforts. For RNA expression profiling, we have seen a gradual transition from in-house printed cDNA-based expression arrays to oligonucleotide arrays and we expect a similar transition for array CGH. This review compares the different platforms and will attempt to shine a light on the 'BAC to the future' of the array CGH technique.