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Sleek CRT Could Strut Its Stuff

Witness technology as fashion show. Like a supermodel, LCD screens are chic in their color, thinness, and clarity (OK, maybe not so much with clarity). Cathode ray tubes are like the neighborhood babushka: dependable, dowdy, and broad-of-beam. But IBM has patented a technology that could put CRTs right back up on the runway. IBM scientists in Scotland have patented a way to make a color CRT that's 2 centimeters thick-and IBM says it's cheaper and easier to make these flat-panel CRTs than LCDs.

Conventional CRTs use a gun at the back of a deep tube to shoot beams at a glass screen covered with phosphors (which are lit up by the beams). The beams are dragged across the screen by magnets, creating images.

IBM's new monitor zips electrons through miniscule holes in a thin magnet that's a shade larger than the display screen. The electron beams stream out to a phosphor-covered, thin, slightly convex glass screen.

Andrew Knox, who created the CRT with fellow IBM researcher John Beeteson, says screens of any size are possible with the same depth, but building a thin vacuum panel big enough for a projection screen might not be practical. That still leaves flat CRTs as a potentially major threat to LCDs. "Detailed cost analysis showed the device costs less than or very close to a CRT of the same size and less than an LCD," says Knox. He adds that IBM may license the technology to another company for mass production.

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