Just when you thought you'd conquered the difference between an LCD and a plasma HDTV, vaguely understand HDMI vs. RCA connectors, and know your CFLs from your LEDs -- along comes another wave of techie alphabet soup.
This year's gathering of more than 100,000 geeks in
The runaway success of the movie Avatar, with its wide distribution in 3-D movie theaters, comes just when TV makers are looking for their next big thing. Almost half of the top 10 movies last year had successful 3-D versions, where images appear to escape from the screen to add a three-dimensional depth. Nearly all the major TV makers have responded with plans to sell 3-D-enabled models, and distributors like
But the industry faces tough hurdles, not the least of which are the goofy glasses that are needed for the 3-D effect. And 3-D programming seems even rarer than HD shows and movies at the birth of that format, which legitimately knocked the socks off of viewers coming from standard definition. 3-D, on the other hand, runs the risk of being a novelty that won't escape a niche market.
[Success is never guaranteed, judging from a decade of tech flops.]
The same light-emitting diodes that are starting to replace CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights, in some light sockets are also replacing them as the light source for LCD televisions. The LEDs use less energy than fluorescent bulbs and allow for even thinner screens. They also can be better controlled, turning completely off in part of a screen to create darker darks and thus higher contrast, which is a challenge for conventional LCDs.
They remain expensive, perhaps too expensive for the somewhat better picture and thinner screen. But the energy savings could push them into the mainstream. Market analysts at iSuppli recently predicted that LEDs will provide the lighting on 83 percent of LCD sets sold in 2013.
Cell companies have sold their 3G high-speed data networks as wireless broadband, but it falls well short of the speeds enjoyed at home with landline modems. Now comes the next generation, called 4G, for fourth-generation wireless, with promises of multimegabit download speeds that could even replace cable or DSL.
Hard drives continue to get bigger and cheaper. But they don't gain as much in speed, so semiconductor companies sense an opportunity with solid-state disks made entirely of memory chips. Think thumb drives on steroids. The SSDs are starting to go mainstream, despite costs that still run 30 times as much per gigabyte of storage. Most of the big chip makers have entered the fray, including memory companies like Crucial and
Solid-state drives use much less energy than their conventional counterparts and, with no moving parts, are more rugged. That makes them natural partners for laptops. But their speed also makes them attractive to desktop users, who can see systems boot much faster and programs respond better when they are loaded on a solid-state drive.
DECE is a coalition of
But Apple and Disney could throw a wrench into the works as they're reportedly cooking up their own competing standard. Plus, it's unclear if and when the DECE system will cover rentals and not just purchases. And however flexible the new copy protection will be, it's still copy protection that will frustrate consumers, especially until it's fully adopted everywhere we'd want to play our movies.
Mobile Tech That Stole the Decade
If the '90s were the Internet era, maybe the '00s were the mobile decade. Technology packed ever more power into ever smaller devices, putting portable electronics at the leading edge of innovation this decade. With freedom of movement in mind, here are the top tech innovations of 2000-2009 ...
The Biggest Technology Flops of the Decade
The new millennium was born amid an Internet bubble that soon burst, not a good omen for the technology industry. The sector rallied, however, and continued to produce a remarkable run of new gadgets. But it had more than its share of flops, as well. Here are the 10 biggest debacles of the decade
The Yearbook Faces Competition from Facebook
Challenged by the amount of time and energy today's teenagers devote to staying up to date on their friends' Facebook or MySpace pages and Twitter feeds, the traditional school yearbook is facing an identity crisis. The extent to which today's students will prefer to share their high school reminiscences via online social networks a few years from now is unclear
Entrepreneurs Take On Sexting and Child Safety Online
Kids are often more tech-savvy than their parents, so no tool can provide perfect oversight. But parents' concern over sexting, cyberbullying, and other online threats is driving businesses to improve protection. Several other start-ups are now competing to offer products to help parents keep tabs on their kids.
What's New in Consumer Technology and Electronics
The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is smaller than in recent years, but it's still where the world takes stock of what's coming in consumer electornics and technology. And obscure acronyms -- the valued shorthand of geekdom -- seem especially prevalent as new tehcnologies roll out. Here are five new technologies and getting a big push this year ...
Rise of Miniature Medical Robots: Fantasy Fast Becoming Reality
Gaia Vince and Clare Wilson
The surgeons of tomorrow will include tiny robots that enter our bodies and do their work from the inside, with no need to open patients up or knock them out. While nanobots that swim through the blood are still in the realm of fantasy, several groups are developing devices a few millimeters in size.
Flying Under the Influence of the TSA
I won't insult you by repeating the obvious advice being dispensed by the so-called experts, such as arriving at the airport early or packing light. Instead, I'd like to take a longer view on traveling while under the influence of the TSA. Assuming that only half of the awful things people are saying about the agency are true, how do you fly?
Over the last few years, there's been a revolution in long-distance communication that makes it easier and cheaper than ever for travelers to stay in touch. Take your laptop or netbook to Europe, hook up to a fast Internet connection, and you can talk to people around the world -- for free.
(c) 2009 U.S. News & World Report