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November 8, 2007
Hi-Tech: Gee, It's The New "New & Improved"

Yesterday’s "hi-tech" is the "new and improved" of today. This occurs because of the degree of proliferation of everything. But, as my colleagues who toil in technology tell me with a shrug, ubiquity eventually overshadows novelty.

LCD tech is the example I’ll use. This was implemented 35 years ago and can now be found on virtually every device or appliance imaginable - but still, because someone always wants to make a living, you will now be hit over the head with OLED!

Sony Corp. just announced the world's first commercial launch of ultra-thin televisions using organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology, aiming, said the press release, "to revive its reputation for innovation. The next generation television has a screen with a thickness of just three millimeters (0.12 inches), which was made possible because the organic display is self-luminescent and does not require a backlight."

According to the IEEE.org, which is the world’s "leading professional association for the advancement of technology," here is The History of Liquid Crystal Displays:

"The modern history of liquid crystals has been dominated by the development of electronic displays. These developments began in 1964, when... RCA Laboratories discovered the…dynamic scattering mode. ...In the beginning liquid crystal displays (LCD’s) were limited to niche applications such as small-size displays for digital watches, pocket calculators, and small handheld devices. That all changed with the development of the notebook computer industry. In 1988, Sharp Corporation demonstrated an active-matrix full-color full-motion 14-in. display using a thin-film-transistor array. The electronics industries now recognized... that a wall-hanging television had become a reality. LCDs could be used to replace existing cathode ray tubes."

If you did not fall asleep through that description you now know that yesterday’s idea of hi-tech is a joke to us now.

Oh stop. You want more? On October 1, 2007, the hand-held calculator turned 40! And in reading all the regaling of this great date it occurred to me, the calculators were the crème de la crème of the hi-tech world just a few decades back and today’s calculators are all 3-D graphing machines. The techiness of a calculator from the 60’s is like an abacus appeared to them then. I mean, a PSP portable is smaller than the first calculator and if you stare at it for a bit you’re going to realize that it's not really very hi-tech. It's a video player with a much brighter hue.

Everywhere we look it’s a hi-tech this and a lo-tech that. Heck, even Sesame Street’s TMX Elmo is a hi-tech version of a doll that’s been out since today’s adults were toddlers. And it’s being touted as the ultimate technological revolution. In the next decade when Elmo is featured in toy stores as a hologram or a virtual friend, that TMX baby will be a relic. And nothing will be considered technologically brilliant anymore.

The above is excerpted from the forthcoming book 2011 – by me – and McGraw-Hill.

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Richard Laermer is CEO of New York's RLM pr, representing, among others, e-Miles, Epic Advertising, Yodlee, Revolution Money, Group Commerce, Smith & Nephew, and HotChalk. He was host of TLC's cult program Taking Care of Business and speaks on trends and marketing for corporate groups. You can read Laermer on The Huffington Post and on the mischievous but all-too-necessary Bad Pitch Blog. For more like this, follow him on @laermer.

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