As old CES hands like our own Keith Shaw advised, Tuesday was orders of magnitude more busy than Monday. Now the show had a crush of people to go with its gargantuan physical scale. All the booths were put together and running, everyone's gear was on display - the effect was overwhelming.
In the hallways, traffic was thick and unremitting. Seas of people walked busily over almost every square inch of carpet, lines stretched from every Starbucks, restaurant and bathroom.
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The new crush extended to we of the press corps, as well - the formerly sedate and quiet press room at the Convention Center quickly became a madhouse of journalists. Competition for seats and all-important wired Internet connections (the Wi-Fi, as at most conventions, was spotty at best) was fierce - I even saw a pair of distinguished-looking journalists get into a scrappy war of words over a possible seat theft.
Finally, though, I hit the show floor. And was quickly overwhelmed by the experience.
The nature of the show makes it difficult to generalize about what a CES booth looks like. I saw everything from little one-person booths with a few monitor stands or whatever it is they were selling to titanic, high-tech amphitheaters like Panasonic's setup:
The huge scale of the show meant that there was a truly enormous variety to the booths. There were entire sections of the floor space devoted to companies selling nothing but iPhone/iPad accessories. One whole hall devoted to automobile-related gear. Not far from a display of Serta Mattresses, I found the booth for gaming-focused PC peripheral company Razer.
From the CES show floor.
Walking around for more than 20 minutes or so without really stopping to examine anything or talk to anyone induced a kind of trance, at least for me - the splashy displays, lights and booths all blending together into one long river of sensory overload. There was just constantly something you'd never seen before, wherever you looked, and the halls stretched out into eternity.
I had to force myself to keep track of time, and even so, I found that plenty of it had passed in what seemed like minutes. It wasn't unpleasant, per se, but it's oddly worrying to think about after the fact. I really did just kind of wander around the place in a daze for a bit there.
The crowds weren't as bad in the exhibition halls as they were in the corridors, but space was still at a premium - I ate lunch sitting on the floor with my back against the side of a booth.
At any rate - my impression of my first CES was a bit self-contradictory. It was a pushy, stressful atmosphere, but also a fantastic professional experience. It took place in some of the biggest rooms I've ever seen, but was hugely crowded. It was vast and impersonal, but I also met some terrific people.
My impression, really, is that megashows like CES create their own relevance - like the force of gravity, it sucks in media and exhibitors "because it's CES" and then becomes even bigger and more newsworthy because all the biggest companies and tech media outlets are there in force.
Because of this seemingly self-created importance, it's easy to see why some in tech media say that it doesn't really matter anymore. I see what they're getting at, but I think they're missing the point. It's still the only time you see the whole industry - several whole industries, actually - get together in one place. Major announcements are made, even if they're fewer in number than in past years. Reputations wax and wane based on what happens here.
In summary, it's a big, weird, confusing, frustrating, exciting deal. I certainly had fun.