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CES Is 40, But It’s 25 For Me

The International Consumer Electronics Show, CES for short, celebrates its 40th year with this week’s show.

For me, this show marks a personal milestone since it is 25 years since I attended my first CES — when it was called the Winter Consumer Electronics Show. Although I covered industrial electronics for a couple of trade newspapers in the late 1970s and wrote a couple of stories about handheld electronic toys in 1981, I consider 1982 Winter CES as my debut in covering this business.

The publisher of the now-departed monthly trade magazine Toy & Hobby World decided that I should travel to CES to cover video games and children’s home video at the last minute. I knew little about either since my wife and I were married a little more than a year and while our small apartment had a color TV, we didn’t have a VCR and or a video game system.

Our publisher gave me my marching orders around, oh, Dec. 15. So it was understandable that I could only get a Republic Airlines flight from LaGuardia with stops in Iowa, Denver and finally Las Vegas, which I reached around 10 hours later. And I stayed at the palatial “Airport Inn,” which is probably now part of the expanded tarmac at the airport here. What a way to attend your first CES.

I quickly learned about video games, which became the focus of a regular supplement of Toy & Hobby World called Electronics For Kids. It was a boom time for the game industry — Atari, Mattel and Coleco were the major players with tons of independent game developers that appeared out of the woodwork and disappeared just as quickly. Atari and Coleco eventually came up with home computers, along with Commodore, Apple and IBM. Nintendo was around then, but with handheld games.

I read my first show dailies in 1982 and wondered, “How do they write all that stuff overnight?” Boy, did I find out over the years.

What I learned as a novice in covering my first CES, and the next several, was that I was thankful that I had a focus — video games and any electronics designed for kids. If you walked around CES back then without a plan, you’d be mesmerized and sidetracked by the many new technologies and new companies you had never heard of. CES is more exciting, and mesmerizing, today.

Maxell’s Don Patrican, who I would meet a couple of years after my first show when I joined Home Furnishings Daily, said in our 20th anniversary issue last year that CES “is the Super Bowl of our industry, but unlike the NFL players, we get to go every year.”

I agree. Speaking as a reporter and editor, CES is a major challenge for any journalist or publication that covers the consumer electronics industry. While many of us dread the preparations and the anticipation of the stress we will feel as we approach the show and during CES, by the time we get here we relish that challenge.

For those of us who have been around awhile, CES provides a good chance to catch up with longtime industry colleagues and friends, and make new contacts. It is a time to finally see and hear all the products you’ve been writing about and reading about for our daily and our show issue for the past month or so, and it is a time to relearn the industry once again. This is because this industry changes more every year, every month and every day than any other industry in the world.

So it would be unthinkable not for me not to be in Las Vegas attending CES in early January. If you’re not here, you not only don’t know what you’re missing, you are probably not serious about being part of the CE industry.