Back before 1967, the primary place to exhibit new consumer electronics (like the first handheld calculator) was actually the Chicago Music Show. In 1967, however, things changed, and the very first Consumer Electronics Show was held in New York City as an offshoot of the Chicago Music Show.
Despite its infancy, the show attracted over 100 exhibitors and more than 17,000 attendees. From there, CES continued to grow, with CES 2016 attracting more than ten times the number of attendees from the original show. Whether CES 2017 will break this record is anybody’s guess, but there is certainly no sign of the show’s popularity waning.
After experimenting with holding the show twice a year (once in the summer and once in the winter), CES eventually settled in to its current annual home in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1998.
We’ve already written about some tech that you (probably) didn’t know was originally unveiled at CES, and to continue our celebration of the show’s 50th anniversary, here are some notable show highlights from CES’ history.
1993 – CES was open to general public
Although CES has been and is a trade-only show (meaning you need to have a business or media interest in consumer electronics to gain access), it was open to the general public in 1993. If you really want to attend CES but you don’t have a business interest, I’m sure you’ll be able to wait until a time machine is unveiled at CES (really, where else would it be unveiled?) and then take that bad boy back to the year of the $1 gallon of gas.Blue Screen of Death on the demonstration display | Screenshot
2005 – Bill Gates’ Windows woes
Main keynote speaker and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was presenting the now-defunct Windows Media Center when the demonstration encountered a fatal system error and displayed the Blue Screen of Death. On-stage mishaps aren’t super common, fortunately, but when they do happen they’re always entertaining.
2008 – Bill Gates stages a play
Well, it wasn’t really a play. In announcing his formal retirement from his day-to-day duties at Microsoft, Bill Gates performed a comedy skit on what his last day with the tech giant would entail. This coming from an executive who also boasts mad chair-jumping skills isn’t that surprising. What is surprising is that the skit included guest appearances from several celebrities, including a freshly-elected Barack Obama.Wikimedia Commons
2010 – Drones make an appearance
More correctly called “quadcopters,” consumer drones that are relatively affordable allow the average person to capture amazing aerial footage of their escapades, daring or not. But back in 2010, quadcopters were still in the early stages of development (at least for consumers). When Parrot unveiled the first prototype of their drone, controlled via a smartphone over Wi-Fi and able to stream video to the phone, there is no doubt that heads turned and jaws dropped. What a time to be alive.
2012 – Everyone loves a scandalVLC playback controls visible during demo.
Video game and software demos at expos like E3 are almost always just tech demos – that is, they aren’t actual representations of gameplay footage, even if they are presented as such. Instead, the demonstrations are pre-rendered concepts of what the game will be like. Evidently this practice has been going on for at least four years (but realistically people have probably been doing this since the dawn of computers). At CES 2012, graphics processing unit (GPU) maker Intel was showing off the capabilities of their HD Graphics 2500 GPU by driving a lap in F1 2011. Except that they weren’t. During the presentation the playback controls for popular media player VLC popped up on screen, revealing that the demonstration was actually just a pre-render.
Obviously in 50 years there have been thousands, if not tens of thousands, of unveilings in the history of CES, and I recognize that these are but a handful of the total number of great moments from the show. The truth is, there is just too much stuff out there to cover it all. These are just a few moments that stand out.
As CES continues, more memories will be made, and if you’ve been to CES before, perhaps you already have memories of your own. If you do, share them with us on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtage #MyCES50 and you’ll be entered to win our giveaway.