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Electronic wonderland


IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY noticed, Americans are going increasingly crazy over electronic tools and toys. More than half the dollar value of presents exchanged last Christmas was for consumer electronics, credit card companies estimate. And, while a recession may loom, there was no sign of slumping demand at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The show, which draws thousands of exhibitors and several hundred of thousand of visitors every year, offered a mind boggling array of new or improved devices aimed at feeding our technological obsessions.

This year's themes included electronics designed for the environmentally aware, tiny portable hard drives capable of storing imense amounts of data, black boxes designed to simplify management of stored movies, TV programs, home videos, and DVD's, not to mention GPS technology included in just about every device imaginable.

As usual the televisions were the stars. If a 105-inch TV was hot in 2007, consider this year's 150 inch model. And, like fashion show models, TVs are getting breathtakingly thin -- this year's winner among wall TVs was 1 inch thick. At the other extreme, there was a tiny 11-inch Sony that was just three millimeters thick with breathtakingly vivid color and contrast. That set, which uses a revolutionary new organic plasma technology could be had for just $2,500.

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