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Tech medals for IBM, Motorola and George Lucas

What do Jedi knights, the West Nile virus and semi-dwarf, disease-resistant high-yield wheat have in common?

They all helped a new batch of individuals and businesses win National Medals of Science and Technology. President Bush handed out the awards in a ceremony at the White House on Monday.

The president took the opportunity to reflect on how much the country has changed since the first National Medals of Technology were given out in 1980. "Twenty-five years ago," reads the press release, "most Americans used typewriters instead of computers. Most of us used payphones instead of cell phones. Most of us used carbon paper instead of laser printers. Most of us had rolodexes -- you might remember those -- (laughter) -- and on the long family trip we'd play the license plate game -- (laughter) -- and now we're watching DVDs."

The science medals date back to 1959. Including this year, there have been 425 science recipients and 166 technology recipients.

The National Science & Technology Medals Foundation apparently takes its time in determining who's earned the awards. Monday's honorees are listed as the 2004 laureates. Here are some of them:

• ' Industrial Light and Magic, the company behind the "Star Wars" movie technology, for 30 years of innovation in visual effects.

• IBM's microelectronics division, for innovation in semiconductor technology.

• Motorola, for work in mobile communications.

• Engineering consultant Ralph H. Baer, of Manchester, N.H., for his work in developing and commercializing interactive video games.

• Gen-Probe, of San Diego, Calif., for its blood-testing technologies and systems for detecting viral infections, including West Nile virus and Hepatitis C.

• Norman Borlaug, of Texas A&M University, for breeding semi-dwarf, disease-resistant high-yield wheat and instructing farmers in its cultivation.