In this review, recent work is discussed on bistable Si dopants in the GaAs (1 1 0) surface, studied by scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). The bistability arises because the dopant atom can switch between a positive and a negative charge state, which are associated with two different lattice configurations. Manipulation of the Si atom charge configuration is achieved by tuning the local band bending with the STM tip. Furthermore, illuminating the sample with a laser also influences the charge state, allowing the operation of the dopant atom as an optical switch. The switching dynamics without illumination is investigated in detail as a function of temperature, lateral tip position, and applied tunneling conditions. A physical model is presented that independently describes the thermal and quantum tunneling contributions to the switching frequency and charge state occupation of a single Si atom. The basic functionality of a memory cell is demonstrated employing a single bistable Si dopant as the active element, using the STM tip as a gate to write and read the information.