The lone conventional television set at Anderson's TV store sat along a side wall like a castoff. Its screen was dark as dozens of other gleaming flat-panel and big-screen models flashed nearby with vivid color images.
The staff at the Redwood City store hadn't even bothered to turn on the cathode-ray tube TV until a reporter asked to see it on a recent afternoon.
The obvious neglect reflected the wallflower status of today's CRT TVs, as well as the mature technology's doomed future. Experts say the old-fashioned boob tube that catered to generations of Americans will soon be all but extinct.
"It's already dead, but it doesn't know it yet," said Jon Paul Belstler, an audio/video consultant at Anderson's. "It's just trying to hang on."
Across stores and in homes, sleek LCD and plasma televisions are taking over.
In North America, sales of the bulky traditional TVs are in steep decline.
Retailers expect little to no demand for CRTs by 2009, partly because of a government-imposed deadline requiring television broadcasts nationwide to switch to all-digital by February of that year.
Industry observers predict many consumers will have purchased a digital TV by then.
Digital CRT sets sold today are capable of handling high-definition TV, and video experts say CRT technology still represents the gold standard in picture quality with the deepest blacks and best color accuracy.
But the performance of LCD and plasma displays have improved dramatically in just the past two years, making the differences in picture quality insignificant to all but discerning videophiles.
Major TV makers like Sony Corp and LG Electronics Co. have been steadily reducing their CRT shipments to focus on what will soon be the larger flat-panel TV market.
LG, in fact, had followed Samsung in creating slimmer versions of CRTs two years ago but is no longer pushing the technology. Only two CRT models remain in LG's lineup of 50 televisions this year, spokesman John Taylor said.
"We saw the writing on the wall years ago, and flat panels have taken off much faster than a lot of people have expected," Taylor said.
Circuit City Stores Inc., the nation's second-largest electronics retailer, plans to have very few CRT models in its stores by the end of 2007.
No. 1 electronics retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. hasn't declared a blackout on CRTs but is steadily devoting less retail space because more consumers are looking for flat panels.
"The CRT has served us well for many many years — since the early 1930s into the golden age of television and the advent of color in the 60s," said LG's Taylor. "The longevity of that technology is probably second to none in our industry, but time marches on, and flat panels have really captured the enthusiasm of the American public." http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15386014/