It's January. You read Twitter and The Blogs and have a vague recollection of every major news outlet in the country sending some poor reporter to Las Vegas this month, every year, to stand in a convention center and talk about technology. This is CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. But it's more than just a collection of gadgets.
Since 1967, throngs of stalwart techies—from retail buyers to financial analysts, journalists and just straight-up enthusiasts—have journeyed to the show, hoping for a glimpse of the newest developments in consumer electronics. And they used to get it: CES has a storied history of important announcements, the most recent of which occured in... well... let's say 2009.
The Palm Pre and Web OS made huge waves at CES 2009; Microsoft's Xbox, unveiled in 2001 was another biggie. But truly important announcements don't really happen at CES anymore. What used to be a rare opportunity to get the entire industry in one place to disseminate information has been made somewhat outdated by the instant communication the Internet affords. Major companies—notably Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Amazon—opt instead for standalone events for their major announcements that themselves draw hundreds of attendees.
But that doesn't mean CES isn't important; big announcements shmig announcements, it's the little guys who bring us the most joy. Smaller companies innovate just as much as the larger ones—sometimes more—and CES is a great place for them to show the world the quality of their wares. Five years ago, Parrot was best known for a Bluetooth car stereo; now its enormously popular AR Drones own the skies. Sorta. Whatever, they're awesome. You know what I mean.
The CEA, which puts on the CEShindig, is a lobbying group that goes to Washington and tries to get lawmakers to pass legislation that favors the Consumer Electronics Industry. High five! Moar electronics please! Can you get Congress to pass a law that mandates a Space Mountain-based national transit network? Also, Sam wants a robot girlfriend.
The CEA also helps implement technical standards; it's hard to get competitors to agree on anything, but it's the CEA's job to herd those cats and get everybody on the same page.
Most importantly, the fact that CES is hosted by the CEA should be your first hint that at its heart, it's not an event for the media or the general public. There are press conferences aplenty, sure, but just as important are the business wheelings and dealings that take place throughout the week behind closed doors.
CES first invaded Sin City in 1978; before then, it was in Chicago, and New York before that. If you know someone who has been going to CES since before it was in Vegas, give that person a hug, because he or she is a gangsta.
Starting in December, tech writers start publicly whining (mostly on Twitter) about how they're going to be paid to go to Las Vegas, eat a lot of free food, hobnob until the wee hours, and stand amidst every gadget on Planet Wonderful. This is what you call a humblebrag. If you know a CES humblebragger, you have my permission to give him or her a deadarm.
Seriously, if a week in Vegas on someone else's dime is such a hardship, please feel free to go somewhere else for the next few days. You can catch all the action on Gizmodo, because we're going to bust our asses to make sure you get the best of the show. Wish us luck!