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From Black and White TVs to Robots: CES at 50

There was once a time when "high tech" meant devices such as the transistor radio or the VCR. And many of these now-familiar items made their debut at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — now celebrating its 50th year.

My, how far we've come.

The first CES was held in the summer of 1967 in New York City, where 117 exhibitors — measly by today's standards — showed off black and white televisions, transistor radios, and stereos.

Image: The consumer electronics show of the 1960s featuring Panasonic television innovation.
The consumer electronics show of the 1960s featuring Panasonic television innovation. CES

Panasonic, RCA, and Packard Bell were among the biggest names showing off their gadgets at the first CES, which was billed as "the most comprehensive visualization of consumer electronic products ever shown."

Image: In 1970, Belle Wood showcased their audio line, from home stereos to automotive equipment.
In 1970, Belle Wood showcased its audio line, from home stereos to automotive equipment. CES

In 1970, a wild piece of technology made its world debut at CES, completely changing the scope of home entertainment: the video cassette recorder. It was of course eventually killed off by the almighty DVD player, only to be replaced by today's streaming services — but through the years, all these products have had a place at CES.

Image: Digital watches were an important part of technology and fashion in the 1980s.
Digital watches were an important part of technology and fashion in the 1980s. CES

By the time techies roller skated into 1980, CES had grown to 1,400 exhibitors and spanned an area the size of ten football fields.

Some of the top tech that ruled CES that decade included car stereos and clunky cordless phones.

The 1990s brought us HD television, faster and slightly cheaper personal computers, and DVD players, just to name a few of the highlights.

Even Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates showed up at CES in 1998, proving that the show could draw the biggest names in tech.

Image: Bill Gates delivered a keynote address at CES 1998.
Bill Gates delivered a keynote address at CES 1998. CES

The biggest shift in the 2000s was in the diversity of tech at CES. The show still has the big gadgets, but has also expanded into other areas, including self-driving cars, cleaning robots, and even a Bluetooth enabled pregnancy test.

Image: CES in 2016.
CES in 2016. CES

This year, the trade show spans 2.47 million square feet of space and has more than 3,800 exhibitors from around the world. Some are multi-billion-dollar companies with household name recognition, while others are start-ups hoping the show will serve as their springboard to becoming the next big thing.