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You've heard of flat-screen monitors


Thin is in, and we're not talking waistlines.

Consider the rapidly changing world of electronics. You can buy a giant television set, no thicker than a framed oil painting, and hang it on your wall. The latest hand-held electronic devices are as tiny as credit cards, and almost as thin. Bulky computer monitors that fill 50 centimeters of space behind their screens are landing in the recycling heap, in favor of flat-screen monitors no wider than a pack of cigarettes.

And guess what's on the horizon.

You may have heard of e-books, e-newspapers and the like. These are electronic versions of entire books, newspapers, and magazines that you can download into your desk computer or laptop. But that's ancient technology compared with a new, ultra-thin product to come.

Several former Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard scientists, working at a company called E Ink in Cambridge, Mass., are hot on the trail of a paper-thin electronic screen called flexible E-paper. It's white like paper, and it feels like paper to the touch. The bendable screen is suffused with microdots of actual ink that, depending on the electric charge sent to each of millions of pixels, creates words or pictures just like an e-book.

But you don't need a laptop or keyboard. You can let the e-paper flutter to the ground; it won't break. It's so flexible that those scientists believe you'll soon be able to roll up the e-paper like a scroll and stick it in your pocket.

People who have stubbornly resisted reading anything longer than an e-mail on a computer screen should delight in something that feels like paper, reads like a document or newspaper, but can carry thousands of pages of information from hundreds of sources. Not thin, but thinner, is about to be in.

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