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Network World - CES is one of the few big techie events that I was at least moderately familiar with before I started working here at Network World, less than a year ago. I always thought of it as the nerd playground to end all nerd playgrounds, with years-from-release technology available to the eager gadgeteer.
And I was right -- sort of.
For one thing, on Monday the main exhibition in the Las Vegas Convention Center still wasn't really up and running yet -- the big company announcements and press conferences were all over at the Mandalay Bay hotel. Touring the yawningly vast exhibition halls reveals a whole lot of almost-built booths and kiosks, but few technological goodies spread out for me to play with.
I do have a new appreciation for the work that goes into these setups, however. I'd always assumed they were just kind of rickety pre-fab slabs of plastic that companies could put up and take down again as easily as a carnival ride with unconvincing safety permits. However, the ones at CES are being sawed and hammered into shape by harried-looking carpenters with at least as much care as theatrical stage designers.
There are still stacks of wooden crates everywhere on the exhibition floor -- I saw vast piles of them behind the convention center as I rode in on a shuttle bus this morning, and they looked a lot like the last scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
And when I say the exhibition halls are "yawningly vast," I'm not kidding around -- I got legitimately, Apple-maps lost during the course of my earlier reconnaissance, eventually using a gigantic "SHARP" logo as a reference point to find my way back into the seas of people wandering in the halls outside the main event. The fact that my stomach had been badgering me to find it some lunch for hours added to the sensation of being trapped in a plywood and plastic jungle populated by bored booth personnel.
Fleeing the jungle, I stumbled hungrily into something called ACES Restaurant, which turned out to be one of those cafeterias with a bunch of differently themed counters, allowing you to opt for desperately unhealthy Mexican, Chinese, Italian or "grilled" food, with a frightened-looking salad bar huddled in the center of the room. (My chicken fingers were perfectly acceptable, for the record.)
So part of the reason that CES isn't yet the nerd garden of Eden is that it's still pulling itself together and much of what was going on today happened at the Mandalay Bay. However, to hear a lot of veteran CES-watchers tell it, the vast conference has been heading downhill in recent years.
Lacking a frame of reference, I couldn't tell you whether that's true or not. However, as the show rounds into gear on Tuesday, I'll be watching with interest to see what develops.
Here's a more detailed timeline of the first two-thirds of my first day at CES: