The first CES took place in 1967. Since then, it's been a place where manufacturers can debut their cutting-edge wares to an eager public. Of course, time is often not kind to these "innovations," as today's marvel is tomorrow's punchline. With that in mind, we've scoured the archives and put together a list of electronics that were announced at CES and considered the "hot new thang" of their day:
Videocassette Recorder (VCR) (1970)
Sitting here in our DVR / on-demand future-world of 2013, it's hard to imagine, but back then, people used to actually miss shows! Up to the moment that the VCR hit the scene, there was no way for a home consumer to watch something after it originally aired. Miss last night's Laugh In? Too bad! The next day, you'd not be able to join in around the water cooler, laughing about who had what "socked to them."
Laserdisc Player (1974)
A movie on a disc?! That's way better than a silly old tape! What were they thinking four years ago? Ironically, this "innovation" would be phased out long before the media it was intended to replace. Something else to ponder: In 1974, the only thing that came as a disc was a Frisbee. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, and records. But that's not as funny.)
Never before had so little entertained so many for so long. The phrase "hard core gamer" was coined shortly after. (Parents coined the phrase "turn off that stupid thing and go to bed, already!" around the same time.)
Digital Watches for $20 (1976)
Adjusting for inflation, that would be like paying around $78 today. Even though it doesn't seem that cheap anymore, consider this: According to a 1976 JCPenney catalogue a Timex Men's Watch (non-digital) sold for about $50 ($194.82 adjusted for inflation), so it was a bargain! When is the last time you saw a new piece of technology announced that came in as a deal?! (Though the JCPenney catalogue did offer a cheap-o "acrylic-case watch" for around $10 ($38.96 adjusted for inflation).
Atari 400 and Atari 800 Personal Computers (1979)
These 8-bit home computers had programs for office work (spreadsheets and text editor), but let's be honest, it was the fact that they could play games that really sold them. With the Atari 2600 game console also being a popular home gaming device of the time, the Atari 400 and 800 were probably also responsible for the first console / PC gaming flame war. Luckily there was no internet, so it couldn't spiral too out of control.
Apple Newton (1992)
It was like an iPod touch, but without the rabid adoption by the general public. It was probably because Steve Jobs had not returned to the company with his bag of magic dust that makes all iDevices so desirable.
Virtual Boy (1995)
Long before every company (and their brother) was trying to convince the consumer that 3D was the wave of the future, Nintendo released this eye-crossing, raster-based 3D gaming platform. Headaches and nausea were commonplace side effects when playing the games ... and the 3D tech was pretty terrible, too!
Digital Versatile Disk (DVD) (1996)
These discs would succeed where LaserDiscs had failed because they are ... smaller? Nothing will ever replace them. Right? Also: Hands up, everyone, who was shocked that the "V" stood for "Versatile" and not "Video"!
Apple Pippin (1996)
Everyone loves to salivate over Apple's failures — like this hybrid computer / game console that would go on to sell only about 10,000 units — but it's only because they've had such great success and make great products. We like knowing that even the best of us are failable. It gives us hope that, one day, even we, with all our flaws, could rise to the heights of an Apple. (We can't. We don't have Jobs' magic dust! [See above.])
High Definition Television (HDTV) (1998)
This was the beginning of the end for CES, really. Since this moment, all the "big" stories about the show have seemed to be an endless torrent of "So-and-so announced a better HDTV!" OLED! 3D! Yellow Pixels! 4K! It was the beginning of a bleak and endless progression of one-upmanship that will never end until the sun explodes. Still: CES is fun!
Blu-Ray Disc (2003)
This is nothing more than the next VHS. Scene from 2023: Remember Blu-ray? Ha! Why did we ever want movies on discs?!
This USB-connected device was capable of blending odors into any smell, natural or man-made. We include it on this list because it's a reminder that for every headlining tech item announced at CES, there are always a few that really .... No, we are not going to say it.
Think anything announced this year is going to go into a similar "hall of fame / shame" article in 20 years? Let us know in the comments!