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Industry Mourns ‘Digital Answer Man’ Jim Barry

Jim Barry, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)’s long-time “Digital Answer Man,” died Friday night at the age of 71.

Barry, a fixture and friend to communications professionals and journalists over the 22 years of his career at CTA, was the go-to guy for a quote, an explanation of CTA’s positions, or an insight into the inner workings of Washington and its policies affecting the technology industry. He became the public face of CTA for media outlets everywhere, showcasing and explaining technology products to consumers via TV, radio appearances, and newspaper and magazine interviews across the country and internationally.

He began his career in the tech industry as a journalist and editor with industry publications including Dealerscope, PC Retailing, Home Entertainment Marketing and Video magazines.

He also started the contract publishing division of Crosby Vandenburg Group in Boston, his adopted home, creating and producing custom magazines for ESPN, WGBH, Massachusetts Hospital Association and others.

Barry started the eponymous consulting firm JMBarry in 1994, and then joined CTA (then the Consumer Electronics Association) as a spokesman in 1995.

He served as a judge for the Consumer Technology Hall of Fame since the inception of the program in 2000. A strong industry advocate and historian, he contributed his industry expertise as well as his personal relationships to the judging process. Barry also served as an Innovation Entrepreneur Awards (IEA) judge each year since the program began in 2012, and was a frequent contributor to CTA’s publications, including i3 and Digital America.

Barry  was also a long-time contributor to TWICE and the Official CES Daily, writing a semi-yearly “Washington Watch” column that dissected the influence of legislation on the consumer technology industry.

He was born and raised in Ridgefield Park, N.J., but lived in and came to embrace Boston as his adopted hometown and became an avid supporter of the Boston Red Sox.

He graduated with a B.A. in history from St. Michael’s College in Vermont in 1968.

Memories of Barry continue to pour in from the industry.

“Jim was a remarkable person who was dedicated to and passionate about our industry. As a tireless media spokesperson, he helped introduce millions of consumers to the latest tech innovations,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “Jim was respected by everyone he worked with including manufacturers, retailers and the media and made many friends along the way. Jim also was a respected journalist who covered our industry in a thoughtful and insightful style. Along the way, he helped mentor many of our staff, educating them and igniting their passion for our industry. The entire CTA family will miss him dearly.”

Said Steve Smith, former editor-in-chief of TWICE, “Jim was a fine journalist, an excellent spokesperson for the consumer technology industry, a delightful conversationalist with a wonderful sense of humor, as well as a grand colleague and friend. And he was one of a rare breed, a gentleman. My condolences to his family and many friends.”

Added retailer Tom Campbell, chief technologist at Video & Audio Center, “He was a legend. He was dedicated and passionate and brilliant. He came out to talk to our staff a few years back about the state of technology and they were mesmerized. They still talk about it.”

Barry is survived by his wife of 40 years, Kate Barry, and their two daughters, Moira Rose and Fiona.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, Oct. 27, from 3-7 p.m., at the Metro West Funeral Home in Framingham, Mass. A reception will be held the following day, Saturday, Oct. 28, from 1-4 p.m. at the Aegean Restaurant, also in Framingham.