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Once The Darling Of The Living Room, Plasma Screens Take A Bow

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And now a remembrance for the technology that once had TV geeks, well, geeking out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh, what's this? A giant 50-inch plasma.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Just got an excellent deal on this Panasonic VIERA plasma.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: This is the 65-inch Panasonic plasma. This thing is incredible.

BLOCK: Well, the last plasma screen TVs are rolling off the assembly line this month.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Samsung and LG, the last manufacturers, are both stopping production. Plasma TVs were once considered the best on the market. Here's Science Friday host Ira Flatow after his first encounter back in 2001.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

IRA FLATOW, BYLINE: So I went into the stores, and I saw a plasma screen. You sit there, and you drool over them, but they're eight to 10,000 bucks each.

BLOCK: Thing is even now that those plasma screens are cheaper, some TV experts still drool over them. CNET senior editor David Katzmaier says the picture quality is still unmatched.

DAVID KATZMAIER: It became kind of a niche product for videophiles in the last couple of years - people who really appreciated its picture quality benefits.

SIEGEL: The problem, Katzmaier says, is that plasma had a hard time showing itself off.

KATZMAIER: Plasma actually produced a dimmer picture in stores. So when you walk into a store and saw a line of LCD TVs, it was a lot brighter, and that allowed the TVs to sell better.

BLOCK: And, Katzmaier says, the marketing for those brighter LCDs was convincing to a lot of people. They made LCDs of that curved. They advertised superfast pixel changes, even though plasma is, in fact, faster.

KATZMAIER: It turned out to be an issue where people were not listening to the right information. And, you know, we've been saying all along, you know, buy TVs, and they've been our editors' choices are years.

SIEGEL: Now the plasma screen appears to be going away of the eight-track tape, the rotary dial phone, the wax cylinder.

BLOCK: And David Katzmaier of CNET says that is a real shame. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.