CES Through The Years (If Only My Technology Life Progressed As Fast)

Debuting in NYC in 1967, CES is now in its 47th year.  Technological breakthroughs of the past, many of which are nothing but historic relics today, helped pave the way for the current high-tech consumer electronics captivating us today.  Admittedly, my family and I have been very slow to adapt to the ever-changing technological landscape.  Nonetheless, inspired by this year’s CES show, I decided to take a look back at CES shows of the past and pay tribute to these trailblazing technologies (and how long it took for me and my family to accept them).

Back in its inaugural year, there were only 14 exhibitors (including Motorola, LG, and Philips) covering about 100,000 square feet of exhibit space.  17,500 attendees were on hand.  The main attractions…the biggest technological breakthroughs…were the latest pocket radios and TVs with integrated circuits!

Two years later, in 1969, the show was dominated by radio and television.  Attendees were introduced to Panasonic’s 1.5-inch screened TV (weighing only 2 pounds) as well as FM stereo headphones.

In 1970, the VCR made its debut.  While these machines are quickly disappearing from homes today, at the time they introduced us to a technology allowing us to “watch TV on our terms”.  Current technologies like streaming services and Blu-ray players have taken this luxury to a whole new level.  The VCR didn’t make its debut in the Viger household until the early-‘80s, providing countless hours of entertainment watching ET and the Star Wars movies over and over.  The concept of “pause” and “rewind” was not lost on me during my introduction to National Lampoon’s Vacation and Christie Brinkley.

In 1975, Atari demonstrated their Atari Pong home console.  This introduced the masses to in-home gaming on your television, laying the ground work for companies such as Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and Sega.  The Viger Atari console arrived “shortly” after, also in the early-‘80s.  I remember sitting in awe at the extraordinary graphics of such games as Astroids, Berzerk, Defender, and Pitfall.  Could technology get any better than this?!?

In 1981, compact discs made their debut, providing a new format to play and listen to music.  Personally, I held onto my cassette tapes as long as possible (at least until the early-‘90s).  My ugly, brown Nissan Sentra hatchback had a cassette player and I had so many of them…was I expected to throw them away?!?  I listened to License to Ill until the tape in the cassette was twisted beyond repair…

The show in 1982 saw the introduction of the Commodore 64, introducing the world to home computing.  In 1984, the first year the Census collected data on home computer ownership, 8.2% of homes had a computer.  Today, approximately two-thirds of all American households have a computer.  My family’s first computer was the Apple IIe (the e stood for “enhanced” so this was obviously the Cadillac of computers!) in the late-‘80s.  I have no clue how the other members of my family utilized it but, for me, it meant hours of fun playing Dig Dug in all its green glory.

1985 was the year of Nintendo as they introduced the NES gaming console.  This would quickly become one of the bestselling video game consoles of all time.  1988 saw the debut of Tetris, which was eventually included on every Nintendo Game Boy in 1989.  Maybe with the exception of smart devices (i.e., iPads and phones), Nintendo still controls a strong share of the handheld gaming market to this day with its Nintendo DS system.  I was one of the few lads who never owned a Game Boy.  You see…I was a loyalist (some would say, to a fault).  I played with my Atari until it died a noble death, then switched to my NES until I moved to college (when I was forced to reluctantly hand the system over to my younger sister).  Besides…handheld devices?!?  I was certain these were just a fad on their way out like banana clips and Members Only jackets.

In 1993, Apple introduced the Apple Newton, a personal digital assistant.  This quickly paved the way for Apple’s iPhone and iPad.  As you can probably guess from my previous statements, the Apple Newton came and went with me in a complete state of oblivion.

1998 was the year of HDTVs, giving the country a visual upgrade to the way it watched television.  In 1998, I had no idea what “HD” was.  This was the year my San Diego Padres made it to the World Series.  As long as I had access to any TV, I’d take it (a color TV was a “nice to have” at this point).  When I did get my first HDTV, it wasn’t until 2006 when my then-girlfriend (now my wife) bought me one for my birthday.

The 2000 show saw the introduction of Satellite Radio, providing an alternative to the standard AM/FM signals we were accustomed to.  Sad to say I received my very first subscription to Satellite radio a mere 7 days ago (thank you Toyota Prius!).  So far, I think I like this crazy new service…

From 2000 on, electronic innovation at CES kicked into high gear.  Subsequent shows saw the debuts of HD Radio (2003), IP TV (2005), OLED TVs (2008), the Palm Pre (2009), and 3-D TVs (2010).  Currently, I don’t own a 3-D TV and don’t know anyone who does.  I’ll wait for these to become a little more commonplace.

Time will only tell what CES has in store in 2013.  I, for one, am very anxious to find out what new technological innovations will be enhancing the world this year (and my life 15 years from now).

Dale Viger
Just Media, Inc. 





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