CES Past and Present

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[Verge trailer at CES in this afternoon's fading sunlight.]

I attended my first Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 1997. Six months earlier, fresh out of college, I’d started a job as an associate editor at a new consumer electronics magazine called Wideband. Our boss, an industry legend named Richard Ekstract, had created and sold a number of trade magazines, and Wideband was his latest effort. With an eye towards differentiating it from the other tired trade magazines in the space, he staffed it exclusively with 20-somethings.

The merits and pitfalls of this staffing strategy were never more evident than when Richard announced that, en masse, the staff would be heading to Las Vegas to cover the Consumer Electronics Show. We stayed at The Aladdin, a hotel that would promptly be imploded after we checked out. (It’s where Planet Hollywood stands now.) I had no idea what I was doing, so I scheduled interviews with company executives in different convention halls, leaving myself 10 minutes between appointments that in actuality took more like an hour to navigate. I sweated like crazy, filled tiny notebooks with notes, and even got some stories. Then each night, after walking all day, our Wideband crew would hit the town, gamble and drink until dawn, then crash and repeat the cycle. It was one of the most memorable weeks of my life.

All of which might explain my fondness for the Consumer Electronics Show — and Las Vegas in general — that others seem to lack. By my math, this is my eleventh CES. I’ve moved to that place in my career where I’m really just here for the schmoozing, but The Verge has an entire trailer and most of the staff on site and they’re reporting hundreds of stories a day and creating a ton of amazing video. (I’m typing these words from inside The Verge trailer. It has an unforgettable odor.) If you want to read one good thing about what’s up at this year’s show, I’d recommend this one by Verge editor in chief Nilay Patel: Gadgets are Back.

Speaking of Nilay, a few minutes ago, I was standing outside The Verge trailer talking on my phone when I spotted Nilay approaching. He was stopped by a fanboy for a selfie, which he obliged. Then he ambled up to me, backpack over his back, plastic container holding a hamburger in one hand. “This week is fucking weird, man.”

True. But also kind of the best.