It's a long, long time since 1967, when the first Consumer Electronics Show was held Sunday-Wednesday, June 25-28 in New York City.
The timing was very specific, matching the dates of the Chicago Music Show, which, until the coming of CES, served as the event around which consumer electronics marketers did their exhibiting, some at the show itself, others in hotels around the city.
In 1967, the Electronic Industries Association/Consumer Electronics Group (now the Consumer Electronics Association), felt it was time for the industry to have a show of its own, one generating revenue that would be used to support industry programs.
The announcement of the start-up of CES left exhibitors with a big decision to make: quit the Music Show to support a CES that could be a flop; ignore CES and stick with the tried and true; or split forces and have a presence at both.
A handful of companies opted for one of the last two options. However, all the American brand majors and most of the rapidly emerging sales organizations of giant Japanese manufacturers decided to back CES. Additionally, by way of showing support, NARDA agreed to stage its annual meeting during the show and accepted the designation of co-sponsor.
The first show's opening day, Sunday, was viewed as an arrival day and as a result the exhibits, housed in the Americana and Hilton Hotels, with overflow at the nearby Warwick, didn't open until noon and no workshops or seminars were scheduled.
But to get some excitement and a strong opening-day crowd, Sunday evening featured “A Night At The Waldorf.” It was the industry's biggest gala ever. For just $10 each, attendees were treated to an hour-long open-bar reception, a full dinner and entertainment featuring comic Dick Shawn and songstress Jane Morgan, with music for dancing supplied by the Ray Block orchestra.
The announcements for the gala, being staged by a male-dominated industry, carefully and conspicuously noted that “ladies are invited.”
Other than that, the first CES set the pattern for all those that followed, with exhibits grouped by product, and workshops and seminars staged for and by manufacturers and dealers.
EIA president (and Motorola chairman) Robert Galvin was the kickoff speaker on Monday morning at a session that also featured presentations by FCC chairman Rosel Huyde and FTC chairman Paul Rand Dixon. Additionally, a presentation on new labor standards was made by Labor Department administrator Clarence Lundquist.
That morning also featured a panel on new consumer protection regulations and included the FTC's Dixon, Allan Backman of the Better Business Bureau, Morris Kaplan of Consumer Union and Maurice Cohen of Lechmere.
The next two days were filled with panel discussions and individual presentations. Here are some of the topics, along with some of the presenters, whose names should ring some memory bells:
- Radio: Ray Gates (Panasonic), Moe Guiheen (Westinghouse), Hank Friedman (Rich's);
- Radio-Phono: John Morgan (Sylvania), George Fezell (Magnavox), Louis Del Padre (Del Padre's);
- Television: Walter Fisher (Zenith), Al Medica (Admiral), Jack Sauter (RCA), Hugh Hannah (Hannah-Adams), Carroll Conn, (Conn Appliances);
- Youth Market: Armin Allen (Philco-Ford);
- Audio Components: Harold Schulman (Fisher Radio), Fred Goldstein (KLH), Ted Roussil (Custom Electronics), Jay Schwab (Sam Goody's);
- Video Recorders: Jack Trux (Ampex), Ray Somer (Barnett Bros.);
- Audio Recorders: Art Gaianes (Concord), Darrell Boyd (3M), Jim Arlington (Telex-Magnecord-Viking), William Denels, (Denels Music Shop);
- Audio Tape Players: Oscar Kusisto (Motorola), James Russell (Craig Panorama), Wybo Semmelink (North American Philips), Earl Muntz (Muntz Stereo), Frank Stanton (Playtape), Irwin Tarr (RCA Records), Larry Finley (International Tape Cartridge) and George Slaughter (Advanced Stereo Systems).
It might also be noted that a Consumer Electronics Show daily was published at that first CES. Its editor was David Lachenbruch of TV Digest (now Consumer Electronics Daily), and one of that first daily's staff members was yours truly.
CES: 1967 and 2007
40 Years of Industry Innovation