Terrorists have demonstrated a curious lack of imagination when it comes to exploiting high technology to achieve their deadly aims.

This is the conclusion reached by a task force of Pentagon experts who spent last summer studying the means and methods used to detect and neutralize drug traffickers and terrorists. We previously reported the panel's opinion, published in a secret report, that drug kingpins and law enforcement authorities are engaged in a furious "technology race" with the likely winner still in doubt.

Terrorists, on the other hand, seem mired in the era of rotary phones and mimeograph machines. Their devices are effective -- diabolically so -- but they are essentially updated versions of old techniques. The good news is that the technology is primitive. The bad news is that primitive still works.

"Most of the tactics and operations {terrorists} have considered are essentially 'more of the same,' " the task force's secret report states. The old standbys include the letter bomb (an invention of the 1940s for which Jewish extremists in Palestine get credit), the car bomb, the radio-controlled car bomb, the radio-controlled boat bomb and the suicide vehicle bomb.

"There also have been innovations in fusing and detonating devices: the barometric-pressure fuse invented by the Palestinians to blow up airliners in flight, the long-term delay mechanism used by the IRA {Irish Republican Army} in the attempt on British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's life, the manufacture of homemade mortars," the report says. "These innovations could all be categorized as enhancements and variations. The basic tactics have changed little over the years."

What technological and tactical advances are terrorists likely to make use of in the coming years? The experts offered these prognostications:

Security measures designed to protect American embassies from car bombs could persuade terrorists to attempt "aerial suicide attacks . . . or standoff attacks, using remotely fired rockets or mortars."

Better security at U.S. embassies might cause terorists to "engage less heavily defended targets such as American schools abroad."

Attacks on electrical power grids and energy systems will continue to be used as a routine tactic by both rural and urban guerrilla groups.

It is virtually certain, in the opinion of most experts on terrorism, "that by the year 2000 terrorists will employ shoulder-fired, precision-guided, surface-to-air missiles to shoot down civilian planes."

Contamination of food, pharmaceutical products and water supplies are crimes "clearly on the rise," but they have been favored more by "criminal extortionists, malevolent pranksters and mentally unbalanced persons" than by terrorists. It remains to be seen whether this will change.

Large-scale terrorist use of "chemical or biological warfare is considered to be unlikely -- though not impossible -- in the near-term future."