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Hanson Hosein was once embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq as a correspondent for NBC News. So it means something when he describes his experience at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as something he doesn’t want to soon repeat.

I’ve never been in a war zone, but I’ve been to CES, and I have a sense for what he means.


1999: DVDs, Personal Digital Assistants, Digital Satellite Systems, GPS Navigation

2000: Bluetooth, audio, video, computing, telephony and integrated systems

2001: Microsoft Xbox, Home networks, Micro-PDA, Dedicated Internet and Email devices, mobile transactions

2002: Wireless, DTV, LCD TV/DVD, Home Entertainment Hubs

2003: Bluetooth, 802.11, 3G, satellite radio, OLED, Digital Media Receivers, HD PVRs.

2004: Thin display technologies, imaging, mobile electronics, wireless, home networking and entertainment

2005: HDTV, audio, accessories, home networking, mobile, video and wireless

2006: HDTV, OLED, Mobile information and entertainment, Google keynote.

2007: HDTV, high performance audio and home theater, Windows Vista

2008: Digital entertainment, HDTV, green technology, Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD

2009: 3D HDTV, OLED, green technology, Internet TV, digital downloads

2010: Connected TV, green technologies, tablets and mobile apps

2011: Tablets, wireless 4G LTE, connected TVs, smart appliances, electric vehicles

2012: Ultrabooks, OLED TVS, Android 4.0 tablets, next-gen smartphones, 3D printers

With this year’s CES now history, there will be lots of handwringing about the future of the consumer technology industry’s big trade show, particularly with Microsoft deciding that this will be its last year as an exhibitor and keynoter.

Ed Bott says he’s done with the show. I’m not quite there. As a longtime CES attendee, I still see value in the annual trek to Las Vegas. It helps me identify trends and products to watch, meet and reconnect with people I need to know, and find interesting stories to write, not only during the show but afterward.

I know how many people would gladly trade places with me, and I consider it a privilege to go.

Beyond providing an early glimpse of all the latest and greatest gadgets — the stuff that will be shipping this year — CES offers a good sense for technologies that will take a little longer to hit the mainstream. Examples of those longer-term trends this year included new ways of using sensors and augmented reality to help measure, understand and navigate our world.

But the sheer magnitude of the show — a record 153,000 attendees this year — makes it almost unmanageable. Every year I get home and see reports about things that I wish I had a chance to get to. That seems to be happening more than usual this year, despite feeling like I worked harder than ever to see everything I could.

At the opening press preview, there were so many media that it took me two hours of trying, off and on, to wedge my way up to the Lenovo booth to see the company’s latest computers. Later in the week, I almost didn’t make it into a key Nokia event despite showing up 90 minutes early. Throughout the week, in the middle of what should have been tech heaven, the wireless coverage was laughable.

I know it has always been this way, to some extent. But to me, at least, it felt worse this year. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the attendance set a new record.

In short, technology hasn’t been able to keep pace with its own show.

Even in a world of webcasts, there is still a place for in-person events, and real value in experiencing new technologies in person. So I’m sure I’ll be back to CES.

But I won’t be disappointed if others decide not to go.

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