Back in the Day

I remember my first audio / video trade show. Chicago, June 1995, the last official summer CES. I arrived at O'Hare mid-afternoon and made my way to the Palmer House, a grand old hotel where the show would take place. The lobby was huge, enormous and, as I would come to find, the place where journalists, manufacturers and their PR firms would come together each evening to conspire over cigars and cognac, with the manufacturers or their agents, naturally, picking up the tab.

The place soon filled up with smoke, something I didn't mind then as a cigarette smoker, and wouldn't tolerate now as a crusader for fresh air. I was there as journalist for the tearfully short lived The Audio Adventure, a magazine that flourished for a few years before the crushing debt of printing costs forced it to close doors. That same curse seems to have followed me to Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, a.k.a., Ultimate AV, another publication who no longer secretes paper.

Back then, my show gear consisted of a mid-sized hard cover spiral notebook from Staples (it's a writing pad and a portable table, all coiled into one), a pen or two and an Olympus point-and-shoot which would later require a cycle of develop-and-print. At that show, you sat down at night and rummaged over your notes, in polite conversation with others from your "book," deciding who would write what when we were safely back at the computers we had abandoned in other time zones. Then the interminable wait from the time your article went by carrier pigeon, oh okay, we had email back then too, to the editors who did the obvious along with the not so, pegging picture to verse before an armor car from Wells-Fargo whisked it away to the alchemists who forged all into print and handed it over to the pony express for delivery.

At least that's how I remember it.

Right now, I'm on a train, not a plane, making my first entry (which will be my last, blogishly) on a laptop that will spend much more time out of the case than in over the next few days as we gussy up our experiences with greatly reduced photographs taken from pocket-protector sized digital cameras that hang from our eyes like the Blackberries that dangle from our ears. The conversations at lunch won't be about what we'll write, but what we wrote, not what we saw, but what we should see next. In 72 hours, it will all be forgotten but for our readers' comments (that we continually review) and require (so don't make us beg).

The captain has turned on the no smoking sign. All aboard.