My Only CES Experience


I've been to CES once in my life. Below is a tale of heartbreak and woah…. Well, major disappointment, buried amid fun and excitement.

The story:

It was 1980, and I was working for a Research and Development company in Southern California. One of the companies we developed for was Mattel Electronics. We developed the Dungeons and Dragons electronic game (I have one, and it still works), and were working on another electronic game for them. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of it, but it was pretty reasonably cool... Vocal Blaster or something like that.

It was a very futuristic looking device, and I wish I had pictures for you.

It looked a little like a flying saucer, say the Lost in Space spaceship. It was about the size of a dinner plate, made of white matte plastic. On the top, which was flat, it had a smoke colored plastic disc that, when the device was off, hid two concentric rings of red and green LEDs. Set into the edge were two microphones, set 180 degrees apart, so that each would be pointed toward a player sitting on opposite sides of a table. The microphones were small metal mics (it looked like they took a couple of high quality handheld microphones), painted white to match the unit.

The unit sat low on the table when powered off. To power it on, you press down on it's top. Slowly the unit would raise a couple of inches off the table (on a central leg), the LEDs would flash like a little light-show, and it would play startup tones. When it was up, it would suggest a game, and you'd say "Yes" or "No" and it would either play that game, or move to the next game. As I recall, it had four games available.

The 1980 (as I recall) CES came along, and my spouse and I were among those invited to go to CES. We traveled with another couple, and got to see Las Vegas for the first time. Even back then, CES was huge. We saw Pioneer showing their "soon to be released" LaserDisc player. We saw buxom babes promoting porn videos. Then we found the Mattel booth. They were displaying the Football handheld, the Soccer handheld, the Intellivision game console... but we didn't see our game anywhere. Then we walked around the corner, and off to one side of the booth, sitting on a folding card table with a small stack of black & white brochures, sat their version of our game.

I picked up one of the brochures, and have kept it all these years. Attached is a scan of it. Let me point out a couple of interesting things that may not be obvious. The new design is painfully obvious, but you can't tell that it is now made of cheesy red plastic (cheesy is my opinion). The built-in microphones were replaced with a couple of handheld mics that were appropriated from a couple of old reel to reel tape recorders. The name was changed to "Talk To It" (notice that they apparently TradeMarked this highly coveted name).

Needless to say, this rather crushed our spirits, as we knew that the game would never see the retail store shelves.

***** Paul *****

Additional comments from the author

Although the details are fuzzy, I am pretty certain we stayed in a motel, probably well off "the strip"

The good thing was that the restaurant had a pretty decent prime rib dinner for $2.99.

The scary thing was that their theater was an ice rink, and the cast should've retired long ago. The women's pasty covered bosoms kept hitting their knees, and the one guy they had in the show had his butt hitting the back of his knees. Add to that the fact that they looked like they hadn't seen the sun in a very long time... Well, at least no one fell down.

I remember enjoying seeing all the gadgets, but they're all a blur. The ones I mentioned are pretty much all I remember. I do remember seeing a few items that made me think "Will never see the light of a marketing campaign," or "This is a joke gift, right? You're developing for the "White Elephant" party gifts, right?"

If you ever get the chance to go, do it. It'll be a once in a lifetime event that you probably won't ever care to repeat.

***** Paul *****
Chiron (Ky-ron) in the IRC chatroom

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