1996: what does it hold in store?

Electronic cash, the return of Slade - and strikes, war against the motor car, and a scandal over Arts Council grants. Our specialists predict
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The Independent Online

ELECTRONIC cash will become widespread - but spread very thinly. Zero-pollution cars for southern California will be postponed again.

Cold fusion will spark another bout of interest in the idea of machines that generate more power than they receive. Those are the top lines of next year's technology changes.

Electronic cash has been promised to users of the Internet for more than 18 months. . This year should bring real electronic cash (not a credit- card number, which can be intercepted) that you can send from your terminal to someone else's. But who will bother to use it when a credit card is easier?

Next year brings the deadline closer for obligatory sales of zero-emission cars to cure the smog of Los Angeles. All sorts of power sources have been proposed but US manufacturers can't seem to build the cars for an affordable price. Signs are they will ask for another postponement of the deadline.

Cold fusion? The theorists have gone away to think again, but the amount of Japanese money that has gone into the projects means either a new theory or a new experiment is likely in 1996.

For the rest, expect mobile phones to become even more ubiquitous, and computers to be faster but no more flexible.