Texas Hold-'em.

Despite what I was lead to believe, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is not the end-all-be-all of geek trade shows.

Big, yes.

Cool, not even close.

CES is the largest trade show hosted by Las Vegas, which is saying a lot. The convention center is beyond enormous with more sq. ft. than the town I grew up in. Walking the distance of the collection of buildings is a workout in itself, and it’s recommended that visitors do a few warm up laps and some stretching but it never happens.

As I recall the legend of my youth, CES was Mecca for every gadget geek in the world. The newest, coolest, and most desirable things were discovered every year at the show and attendees would bring red wagons to hold all of the wonderful techno booty received by overly-generous exhibitors. So many happy geeks in one place, sometimes they all broke out in song and danced around a large fire of user manuals.

The legend quickly faded as we walked (for what seemed) miles and miles of speakers, ending in the back with a few small distributors of low end cell phone light doohickys. On and on we trudged through the most boring collection of nothing. It could have only been worse by adding washing machines and refrigerators.

Upon reflection my first thought is this: Why do we need so many different speaker manufactures? I think I’d be underestimating if I said there were eighty large, established companies showing off their speakers, almost all of them the same shape and size. For a second I thought maybe we had come to Vegas in the wrong week, for surely this had to be Speaker World 2004, not CES.

Not wanting to give up hope, my small party and I made our way to another building in search of larger labels who would surely have the coolest not-yet-in-stores hardware available for public, I mean industry, perusal.

Yet not even Microsoft was showing anything that hasn’t already been seen on the web, or made available for download from Russian sources. Unhappily I am able to report that the best thing at the show was the LG (Life’s Good) 76″ Plasma television — crystal clear, life-size, and so affordable at a mere $40k.

I can only conclude that the nature of trade shows has changed quiet a bit in the last decade or so. New (beta) hardware is likely being shown off in secluded hotel suites where security guards are posted by the door and elevators. Unlike say MacWorld where new hardware is flaunted, well during most MacWorlds anyway.

This leaves the Consumer Electronics Show, the largest show of it’s kind in the world, to become nothing more than the largest Best Buy on Earth.

Yet with all the disappointment of BestBuyCon 2004, the trip was not a complete loss. I learned how to play Texas Hold-’em with my friends, and in doing so managed to strip them of their cash abundance problem.