Why do Japanese companies consistently beat their American competitors in the technology marketplace? The reasons are several, but one major difference is that the Japanese simply are more aggressive.

A recent U.S. industry report on the computer market for 1988 showed that the Japanese had captured half the world's $50 billion semiconductor market, an increase of 2 percent, while the U.S. share fell 2 points to 37 percent. That $50 billion market total was a third higher than the year before.One reason for the Japanese success in this expanding market is that they apparently put major emphasis on the fastest growing segments of the computer industry, while American companies did not take advantage of the high-growth areas to the same extent.

That seems to say that the difference is not superior technology or lower costs, but rather, alert business practices, a keen sense of technological frontiers, and a superb selling job.

All of those characteristics used to be hallmarks of aggressive American business. Somehow, U.S. firms must recapture a better sense of awareness of where the action is going to be, and do a better job of planning to get there first.

This especially applies to the exciting new field of superconductors, the ultra-cold materials that carry electricity without any loss of energy. New research has shown that extremely cold temperatures may not be necessary, after all.

Both the U.S. and Japan are considered "neck and neck" in the research, but the Japanese are seen as better structured to develop new materials and get them into the marketplace.

The U.S. should learn from its past mistakes and not let Japan grab the lead in this new technology as it has done with semiconductors.