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EVs, CDs and Tetris: Highlights from CES in Vegas through the years — PHOTOS

Updated January 6, 2024 - 6:07 pm

Las Vegas may be known for its dominance in the gambling and hospitality industries, but decades of innovative reveals at CES put it at the center of memorable moments in tech history.

The annual global technology trade show starts Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Venetian Expo and other venues on the Strip. Expected to bring about 130,000 attendees, its 46-year presence on the Strip has long put Vegas in datelines around the globe.

Here are some memorable product reveals and moments in CES’ Vegas history.

Atari introduces home computers

Already famous for its wildly popular Pong game — one of the first at-home video game consoles — released a few years earlier, Atari revolutionized home computers and gaming again with its release of the 400 and 800 PCs at the winter show in 1979, the first home devices with custom processing that made video gaming more appealing.

The CD is announced

The CD — that’s a compact disc, for Gen Z readers — was introduced at CES in 1981. Developed in a partnership between Sony and Philips, “the record of tomorrow,” as the news release called it, introduced a way to digitize audio with “concert-hall fidelity.”

Tetris comes to the U.S.

The late ’80s brought even more gaming to the major tech show. Tetris, the Soviet-created video game that came to dominate the gaming industry, was introduced in 1988. Executives there were enthralled by the game, and it led to a deal with Nintendo that featured it as a launch game for the Game Boy console.

The digital evolution starts

The 1990s saw an explosion of digital tech growth, with many now-household products launched at the tech show. Some notable ones include the premiere of a portable music player (1993), the first DVD (1996), high-definition TV (1998) and the introduction of the DVR (1999).

First flip phone introduced

Motorola released the smallest cellular phone, weighing “as much as a deck of cards,” during the winter CES in 1996. “The StarTAC’s popularity helped everyday Americans develop a familiarity and comfort with cellphones,” according to the Henry Ford Museum.

Microsoft unveils the Xbox

Bill Gates, founder and then-chairman of Microsoft, unveiled one of the biggest video game consoles of all time at the turn of the century. He introduced the Xbox’s console and controller design at CES’ 2001 show. (Gates, a frequent keynote speaker at the event also used a 2008 speech to formally announce his retirement, complete with a satire video with cameos from musicians, presidential candidates and others.)

Auto tech drives onto the scene

The mid-2010s saw an explosion of automakers and after-market industry members at CES. In 2008, one automaker was present. But by 2016, the show was big enough to automakers that Chevrolet introduced the Bolt electronic vehicle during a keynote speech that year, one of the first electric vehicles available to the general public. The next year, California startup Faraday Future showed off its prototype of an EV that could accelerate to 60 miles per hour in less than 2.5 seconds — but such a product has yet to make it to market.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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