`Plasma' Could Be Some Screen Gem

THE PICTURE WAS FLICKERING financially last summer on TV flat-screen maker Plasmaco, until it got acquired for $1 million. The tiny Highland (N.Y.) outfit is now being courted by giant Far East companies wanting to forge a manufacturing alliance, says new CEO John Antrette. His Atlantic Venture Group was one of its buyers.

Why the interest? Plasmaco is one of several small American enterprises pioneering better methods of making flat-panel displays. Unlike others, Plasmaco's could be built 40 inches diagonally or more. And its pictures are as sharp as a liquid-crystal display's. Yet LCDs, which dominate the growing flat-panel market, aren't practical for screens larger than 20 inches.

Plasmaco, Northwood (Ohio)-based Photonics Imaging, and their brethren use "plasma" displays--which employ small glowing tubes of gas--for the big screens. Like the VCR and a lot of TV technology, plasma was invented in the U.S.--30 years ago at the University of Illinois.

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