The history behind On CE

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Thanks to digital technology, this is the Second Coming of Consumer Electronics.

Bob SnyderI began my career in Consumer Electronics in its earlier Jurassic period…when giants roamed the Earth. Industry giants… like many of those names now in the CE Hall of Fame. Avery Fisher, Akio Morita, John Koss, Ray Dolby, Nolan Bushnell, Dick Eckstract, Sol Polk, Joe Tushinsky, Saul Gold, Jack Doyle, Jack Luskin, Earl Muntz, Howard Ladd and many others (some who aren’t in the Hall of Fame but should be.)

Don’t get me wrong: these weren’t my peer group, not even my good friends. I was still a lad then, fresh out of college. But the industry was smaller then and chances are likely even these giants read some of my articles as a junior editor.

I was more likely then to know their sons and daughters (and some of these run their father’s companies now).

Yet it was exciting to be around these pioneers, if only to pass them in the hallway at CES and or sit in on meetings they attended or ran.

Sometimes you got lucky…I remember joining a small entourage with Morita-san and his wife that headed out to a disco in Tokyo. Out on the town (in a great town) with the president of Sony….that’s a good memory at a time when “discos” seem as ancient as megaliths.

As a young man, I had many occasions to work with Hall of Famers like Jack Wayman (EIA), Jerry Kalov (Jensen, then Dynascan), Jules Steinberg (NARDA), Henry Brief (ITA) and a few others.

Jack Wayman ran CES then. CES had two shows and the main one was Summer CES in June…and in Chicago. (It was only after several years of bad snowstorms in Chicago that the Winter CES in Las Vegas was born.)

We published CES TRADE NEWS DAILY in those days. CES was (as it is now under Gary Shapiro) the world’s most exciting show. CES was the show where Sir Clive Sinclair introduced his calculators and later the ZX-81, the place Nolan Bushnell brought Atari out, the launching pad for Sony’s Betamax, the birthplace of CB radio, and the stomping grounds (literally) of Commodore’s Jack Tramiel.

In those days, in the Winter CES in Las Vegas, Hollywood stars would sneak in CES for previews of technology, instead of getting paid to be on stage hawking the goods.

I worked in those days for another industry giant, Lee Solomon, who published not only the daily but HI FI TRADE NEWS, a Bible for audio dealers struggling with “stereophonic sound” and dazzled by the promise of “quadraphony.”

ACELee started a publication in Europe in 1977, called Audio Consumer Electronics International. I came over as the Editor and ended up running ACE INTERNATIONAL as President.

A four-language publication reaching all corners of Europe (ah, but not “Eastern Europe,” Russia or even East Berlin in those days!), ACE INTERNATIONAL grew to be the most significant Consumer Electronics publication of its time.

We published the first Who’s Who in Consumer Electronics Distribution in Europe in the early ‘80s. Later we would start one of Europe’s first computer dealer magazines, the multi-language ECE (European Computers & Electronics). One of our first interviews was a new subsidiary of a small company called Apple and we talked to Michael Spindler who went on to run Apple itself. One of our guest writers was Esther Dyson who wrote about “luggables” as portable PCs were known in the days of the Osborne, the Kaypro.

We had a young but great team and many of us became respected in our industries. Names that many who read this might recognize…

Barry Gordon, Frank Kelcz, Gianni Cameroni, Jim Charos, Tom Bowers, George Torosian, Rich Eicher, Philip Gallagher, Keith Waller, Peter Weber, Pierre Mangin…and others who worked once at ACE. I am going to leave out a lot of names because we ended up calling it ACE University as many of our alumni went on to be stars in their own countries…even our overseas agents.

Our agent in Tokyo, Yuki Sato, owned Cores Corp. and was a leader in market research for the growing Japanese CE makers. Our agent in Taiwan, Owen Wang, started his company and named it after us (ACE MARKETING) and in his own right has become a leader in services to Taiwanese exporters.

It’s a long story but as you can guess the point of this history.  We were there during the first heyday and we hope to bring this understanding to today’s marketplace. As European publishers in computers, communications and pro AV, we have both the history and the current vantage point to bring dealers and distributors the best possible reporting On Consumer Electronics.

Bob Snyder