Wowed by the lastest digital technologies? Think again – what we consider new is actually heading for the techno scrapheap.

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Just how modern are the latest technologies? We might have only just seen them in the gadget mags, but in the real scheme of things most are ready for the retirement home. The hottest techs cool rapidly. 
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By the time futuristic techs reach us, their successors are filling bins outside the laboratories. Whether it’s the latest sports car, hi-fi, software, or pharmaceutical you can be sure that the marketing guys are already working on the launch party for the next model.
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Last month I discussed the frailty of DVDs compared to VHS tapes. I’m not predicting the sudden death of the all-conquering – and therefore pitifully ancient – DVD format any time soon, but it’s clear that newer technologies are circling vulture-like overhead. 
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Internet bandwidth is capable of supporting live video over the wire without any need for a set-top box, so the need to visit Blockbusters will be much diminished. 
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Remember holograms? These 3D parallax images were sure to make film photography a thing of the past when they edged towards mass production in the 1970s – pushing art to new, previously undreamed of horizons. Instead, they were relegated to bit players on credit-cards and Simon & Garfunkel ticket-stubs. Making the damn things is just too complex, slow and expensive. 
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But holograms haven’t turned their back and trudged off into the dark, cold loneliness of their depths. A British company, Spatial Imaging, has just created the Lightspeed digital hologram printer, which has been described as a quantum leap in holographic technology. Some decrepit techs haven’t died; they’ve just languished in a cyber-coma for years while hotter stuff blazes all around them.
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For a few years now, we’ve all desired a giant plasma-screen TV to hang on our wall. Now we hear that LCD technology is the better deal. Longevity, screen integrity, and energy saving, combined with falling production costs, makes LCD the hottest TV tech – and so it’s no longer the top of the technology tree.
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Canon and Toshiba are creating large-panel TVs using SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display) technology. Toshiba will phase-out production of plasma tellys in 2007. (Sony has been forced to deny similar plans.) SED offers a superior picture to LCD and plasma displays, but uses a third of the power. 
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The technology is a combination of CRT and LCD technologies. As with CRTs, electrons hit a phosphor-coated screen to emit light. But instead of being shot out of a gun, electrons are drawn out of an emitter through a slit that is only a few nanometres wide. The result is a picture that is as bright as a CRT, with images of fast-moving objects that lack the slight blur seen on plasma and LCD screens.
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The timescale to get such techs to market are enormous in an industry that churns out better products by the day. Toshiba and Canon began joint development toward commercializing SED technology in 1999. Canon started researching the technology in 1986. 
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By the time our laughably old LCD sets are running ads for super-new SED TVs, something else will be waiting in the wings to take its place as next year’s hot tech – and boffins will have been working on its successor for over a decade. Technology … modern? You’re having a laugh! 
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