2010 I was in ocean city NJ and a mall on the board walk had greens I paid 40 for one that said 30mW ( it hit 37mW on my lpm with good batts in.) They had so many in the mall.I'd say the 2007-2013ish period. It was back when wickedlasers was making all the headlines, everybody was building burning lasers inspired by kipkay, and scientific/tech magazines would always have adds for laserglow/wickedlasers. When the WL arctic first came out the hype was freaking HUGE! Now WL and Laserglow don't even ship >5mw pointers to the US anymore, and it seems like the public have almost grown bored with lasers. I don't know if the hobby has died that much 'by the numbers', but the hype just isn't there anymore. When anybody can go onto ebay and order a 1.5W burning 450nm for $50, lasers tend to lose a lot of their 'special factor'. It used to be you had to spend big money for a 300ish mw burning 532nm, or build your own burning red laser from dvd burners. All the negative news about pilots getting harassed also isn't helpful for the hobby. Many people are scared to even show their lasers off in public now out of fear that somebody will 'call the cops on the laser terrorist'.
This is true, I think more people have them now but it's more 'underground' so to speak.Depends upon what you mean by popular?
I would guess there have never been as many in private hands as there are today.
Other than the initial popularity and bombardment and coolness of red dot lasers in the 90's which gave the impression that sniper had his sight on you I never even seen or heard before I joined this forum a little over a year and a half ago about greens and visible beams. The red dot lasers were everywhere, from convenience stores to pet shops but iv'e never came across a green one in my physical travels even today.This is true, I think more people have them now but it's more 'underground' so to speak.
It started to rise when WL went all out in their adverts.
That's what got me to join LPF, that and the Styro vids....
If you are meaning peak of media buzz and marketing efforts then Wicked Lasers marketing and media coverage is probably the peak --2010-2012--Not numbers per se, but hype and prevalence in pop culture is sort of what I had in mind.