CES 2017: 50 years on, are we better off with gadgets galore?

4th January 2017 11:42 AM

REMEMBER when mobile phones were used to make phone calls?

They were the size of bricks but pretty easy to use.

What about when a black and white TV was the little cube in the corner which had about four controls?

Or those record players covered with glass tops.

The past 50 years have seen incredible changes in technology - and the birth - and death of many companies.

There's just one company that has featured in the past 49 years of what is now CES (Consumer Electronics Show).

Panasonic was there in the first year in 1967 in New York City - just a few years after television had started broadcasting in colour.

Another 37 companies will be recognised for having exhibited for 40 years.

Ten of those were at the first CES in 1967 and will again be at CES 2017 this week: 3M, Lenovo, Memorex (now MEM-CE), Philips, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Voxx International and Westinghouse.

Television has remained a big part of the pulling power of the Las Vegas show where high definition innovations started to shine in the early 1990s.

Toshiba showed off one of the first 50 inch displays back in 1990.


In more recent years, resolution four times that of 1080 pixel HD - 4K - and now up to 8K - are taking centre stage with the likes of Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, LG.

Looking through some of the photos and videos of CES reveals the huge leaps of technology in recent years.

But there's also some similarities with signs of a smart watch (in the form of a calculator watch) wowing showgoers back in 1993.


By 1996, box shaped video cameras, Motorola's flip phone and the CES sign in lights showed early signs of the glitz and glamour this giant Las Vegas tech event now offers.

In 1999, a headset with rudimentary vision and earphones for audio could be seen, at a big stretch, as forerunners to virtual reality devices like the Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, Google's Daydream View or HTC Vive.

While in 2008, Apple's iPod was the king of audio, today it competes with smart phones, wireless earbuds and Bose headphones, and streaming services like Pandora, Spotify and its own Apple Music.

The late 2000s also saw the first signs of driverless cars at CES, as well as robots, while drones are pictured in 2011, and far more sophisticated ones just a few years later.

In 2016 and 2017, CES has morphed into a show far beyond just phones, video and audio devices.

We've seen a huge boom in gadgets to monitor and enhance health, not just for all of us, but also elite sportspeople.

Most of the devices that will be demonstrated over the coming few days will promise to change people's lives for the better.

But there will be some asking, when will it all end?

Have the plethora of gadgets improved our lives or made us less personal and less connected with the people that matter?

And more importantly, how will they change job prospects for us mere mortals?

It's a question worth pondering as CES looks back on 50 years of innovation and advancement.

The writer is covering CES 2017 as a guest of Samsung Australia