By Gavin O’Hara
Hindsight is everything. Especially when it comes to technology. If we were there when the first Laserdisc Player appeared in 1974, we would have raved. And if we got our hands on that 300-pound Camcorder that debuted in 1981, we would have high-fived like ‘80s dudes.
The Consumer Electronics Show has been witness to virtually every tech boom, bust and fad since its debut in June 1967. We know the 2019 edition will be dominated by discussions of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, VR and AR. What we don’t know is how dominant (or wrong-headed) these things will look 20 years from now with the benefit of hindsight.
Picture the scene (or the smell) at that first CES in 1967 New York City—imagine the fashion, the cigarettes and the console TVs that pushed the boundaries of their time.
The VCR made its CES debut in 1970 while 8-track tapes ruled 1971. The soon-to-be-ubiquitous CD player bowed in 1981. DVD players blew people’s minds in 1996 while HDTV took the show by storm in 1998. All CES did in the ensuing years was grow and grow and grow while welcoming new technologies like drones and self-driving cars.
How big has CES gotten? That inaugural show back in ’67 hosted 14 exhibitors who nestled into 100,000 square feet of space. By contrast, the 2018 edition saw a staggering 4,400 exhibitors and 1,000 startups across 2.7 million square feet in the cavernous Las Vegas Convention Center and elsewhere. More than 180,000 wide-eyed attendees were there to sift through what might be tomorrow’s greatest successes (or objects of derision).
Go on, laugh at the past. But remember this: Someday today’s future will be that past you’re laughing at.
Gavin O’Hara is Lenovo’s Global Social Creative Lead.
All photos courtesy Consumer Technology Association