Leave it to Apple to encase the latest technology in a wrapper so irresistible that it appeals both to cutting-edge technophiles and to people who care more about how something looks than how it works. The most noticeable change in the new generation of the iMac isn't under the hood but stuck on the top of the diminutive computer, looking like the Space Shuttle's robotic arm holding a big solar panel. In place of the old iMac's bulky tube monitor hangs an ultra-thin liquid-crystal display (LCD) - a crystal-clear indication of the changing face of display technology.
Apple marketing executives were quick to call the introduction "the beginning of the end" for the cathode-ray tube (CRT), and that's more than mere hype. A report by the market-research firm Display Search at the end of 2001 showed a record increase in sales of LCD computer monitors, accompanied by a significant decline in sales of CRT monitors. While LCD monitors are still more expensive than their tube counterparts, especially in larger screen sizes, that gap is narrowing all the time. Increasingly, shoppers are willing to pay the extra money for thin, high-tech screens that don't waste precious desk space.
Whether the same logic applies to living-room space remains to be seen, but TV manufacturers aren't taking any chances. The new crop of LCD-based TVs and monitors - including rear-projection TVs (RPTVs), front-projection systems, and wafer-thin direct-view sets - is more varied and affordable than ever. And all of them are built around the same general technology that powers the display on your pocket calculator.
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