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What is CES?

Atar's 1972 video game Pong was introduced at a CES.
CES takes place in Las Vegas each January.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2014
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CES stands for International Consumer Electronics Show and refers to an event, often the largest held each year, and trade show that currently takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada each January. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), a trade organization to which many manufacturers, corporations, corporate officers, and electronics engineers belong, sponsors CES. Since 1967, when the first CES was held in New York City, CEA has supported the show as a nonprofit event where any profits are funneled back into education, promotion of the electronics industry, development of engineering standards, and lobbying.

In addition to the CES showcasing new products, seminars and speakers are part of the trade show that lasts several days. The event always attracts high profile names in the electronics field as speakers, like Bill Gates, and it’s an opportunity for CEA members to showcase a variety of new products. Numerous products that now seem standard fare in many homes, or even obsolete, have been introduced at these shows, including the VCR, DVD, CD players, HDTV, DVRs, and gaming machines like the Xbox. Even the classic “first” video game Pong, was introduced at a CES.

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The initial show had about 200 people or companies exhibiting, but this number is now over 10 times that. Each trade show now features approximately 2500-2700 exhibits, and about 140,000 people attend each year. Presenters and attendees come not just from the US but from all over the world, which makes sense, given the development of numerous electronic based technologies or products outside of the US.

It sounds like a terrific show to attend, and lots of people who love new technologies would probably be happy as clams attending a CES. This is unfortunately very difficult to do unless you can prove your affiliation to the electronics industry. An alternative is to prove that you legitimately work as a reporter on electronics topics. Each year the CES website posts guidelines on what is required to attend the show. In general spouses or friends cannot attend and students are only allowed to attend the first day of the show. If you do plan to attend, you should be certain to book your hotel and air arrangements well in advance to avoid the difficulties of finding no accommodations or flights later on.

Watching keynote speakers at a CES does not presently require reservations. Instead seating begins about an hour prior to any keynote speeches and is first come, first seated. Depending upon the technologies featured and the popularity of the keynote speaker, these speeches are generally extremely well attended and may requiring waiting in line for several hours in order to get a seat.

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