Picked up a large-screen television lately? At 200 pounds or more, these behemoths aren't only heavy, they take up loads of space. It's the same problem with large computer monitors. They're desk hogs.
"Once you've gone around one three times, you're pretty tired," quips Marc Steatham, marketing manager for BT North America, the US arm of the British telecommunications giant.
Fortunately, a solution is waiting in the wings. It's called flat-screen television. And it will likely take over the market for large TVs and computer monitors as soon as manufacturers find a way to produce the screens cheaply.
The benefits are huge. These devices will be able to show all the big-screen dazzle of "Gone With the Wind" but be light enough to hang on your wall. Several Japanese manufacturers are already preparing to sell flat-screen televisions in Japan.
Fujitsu is one. Its new flat-panel display features a huge 42-inch screen, but is less than 3 inches thick and weighs only 40 pounds. If the company tried to make a traditional TV that size, it would weigh 10 times as much and be nearly three-feet deep.
To create these devices, Japanese companies are using plasma technologies. By passing voltage through tiny tubes filled with low-pressure gas, the companies have found various ways to create color pictures. The flat-screen displays are commonly called plasma-display panels or PDPs.
As good as the technology is, you probably aren't quite ready to buy a PDP yet. NEC, one of the leaders in the field, plans to sell its 42-inch, flat-screen TV for about $9,000, and only in Japan. The Japanese manufacturers have not announced plans for the US.
Other TV manufacturers are skeptical that they will sell PDPs in America until they can find a way to make them for far less money. And that may take several years, says James Harper, spokesman for Thomson Consumer Electronics, which makes the RCA, ProScan, and GE brand models.