This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (and every CES for decades, now) is very different from the first CES. Held in New York City in June of 1967, the inaugural event attracted fewer than 18,000 attendees. By contrast, today’s show is held in winter in Las Vegas rather than in summer and brings in more than 140,000 visitors. But the logistics and attendance aren’t the only things that have changed over the years; the show has had to evolve and adapt to remain relevant, especially in the age of instant news feeds and online press releases.
To the credit of the show’s organizers and companies that exhibit, CES is an absolute spectacle to behold. The massive Las Vegas Convention Center is filled with ornate booths, bright lights, and a vibe that makes every smartphone, tablet, and TV feel as if it has arrived via a portal from the future. The proof of this is in the coverage that emerges from the event. The stories we read in print and online are as much about the event as they are about the products.
The show has also evolved to include product categories that would have seemed silly in decades past. If it had to rely on the bread-and-butter products — such as home appliances and media gear — CES would have grown dull decades ago. But the show isn’t just TVs and smartphones; it’s filled to the brim with everything from sports cars to saunas. Want a bed that’s connected to your tablet or a robotic dinosaur to roam around your living room? You can find them at CES. It’s these kinds of offbeat products that keep things interesting and make the show feel fresh year after year.
Perhaps the major reason CES is still a big deal is the show’s embrace of social media and streaming trends. With real-time Twitter feeds, constant Facebook updates from every company under the sun, and even live video streams of big events, it’s easier than ever to “attend” the show without making the trip to Vegas.