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Joining Old Friends In The Hall

With a combination of pride and humility I wish to publicly thank the members of the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame selection committee for naming me to the journalism wing of that august collection of past industry leaders.

I myself am a member of the Hall selection committee, but my election as a Hall member was made without my presence. It is quite an honor to receive such recognition from the committee, which consists of representatives of the Consumer Electronics Association, manufacturers and a selection of my peers, that is working journalists who primarily cover the industry.

In each of the four years since the Hall was established one journalist has been selected for membership. By being selected for the class of 2004, I re-join three predecessors, each of whom I enjoyed working with during my career.

The first and perhaps most respected journalist to enter the Hall is David Lachenbruch, the consumer electronics editor of the newsletter Television Digest. I first worked with David in 1967 as a freelance staffer to help launch the Consumer Electronics Show Daily, the first such CES publication, and joined the TV Digest staff in 1968.

During our 19-year association I learned from David what it means to have a genuine affection for an industry, how to absorb its history, how to put a meaningful perspective on new products and developments. Perhaps most important of all, how to appreciate and respect the efforts of those who at all levels worked to contribute to the growth of not just their own companies but the industry as a whole.

The second journalist to win election was Leonard Feldman. Len, who had a voice that made him the singing star of karaoke bars all over Japan, wore many hats. He was first a successful electronics engineer, then added his other occupations as a product tester and reviewer, industry consultant and columnist. Len was my first choice in 1985 when I went looking for columnists to contribute to TWICE. I knew the input from such a well-recognized, respected and often-controversial figure would be an important contributor to the success of the then as yet to be launched publication. And he indeed was a significant factor in the industry acceptance of TWICE.

Both David and Len, I am sorry to say, are deceased. I would like to feel they both would have warmly welcomed me back into their ranks.

My other colleague in the Hall, elected in 2003, is Richard Ekstract, the publishing entrepreneur who, I’m pleased to say, is still very much with us. Richard was editor-publisher of Audio Times, a relatively small specialized trade magazine, when, in 1978, he licensed the rights to the Consumer Electronics Show Daily, and asked me to continue to contribute to that publication.

That started an association involving many of his start-up publications. Our tie expanded in 1986 when I left TV Digest to join Richard in the launch of TWICE and continued until 1991, when TWICE was acquired by Cahners Publishing (now Reed Business Information). I am much obliged to Richard for convincing me to leave my comfortable position and take a chance on a new venture. He apparently knew better than I that it was time for me to stand on my own and take full responsibility for a new publication, even though I had no magazine experience. To his credit, Richard let me run the ship and make my own mistakes, while providing me with invaluable guidance and leadership.

I don’t pretend I had anywhere near the impact on the industry as the industrial members of the Hall. People like Morita, Matsushita, Fisher, Sauter, et al, developed the products, plotted the marketing and drove the sales, while I observed, reported, commented. I shall always be thankful and yes, proud, that others feel my efforts also contributed to the development and growth of the industry.