Call Jack Wayman “Mr. Analog.” Wayman, who’s worked in consumer electronics for 65 years, celebrated half a century with the Consumer Electronics Assn. in October. As the father of the Consumer Electronics Show, the 91-year-old has witnessed the industry’s evolution first hand. Although he owns a computer, Wayman doesn’t like to use it. “When I started (the first international CES in 1967), we had a radio, TV and phonograph,” Wayman said. “Today, (CEA prexy and CEO Gary Shapiro — Wayman’s successor) has 50 products in our business. … That’s why the show has increased; it has mirrored the industry.” That first tradeshow attracted 200 exhibitors and 17,000 attendees; this year, the 70th exhibition, to be held in Las Vegas from Jan. 7-10, will likely draw 3,000 exhibitors and more than 150,000 attendees.

After returning home from fighting in World War II as a combat infantry officer in both the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, Wayman became a home electronics salesman for Washington D.C.-based Lacy’s appliance store in 1948, and was sales manager at the store’s 12 locations by the time he left five years later. He headed RCA consumer electronics for 10 years in six states before joining CEA (then called the Electronic Industries Assn.) in 1962. In a few years, manufacturers had begun selling electronics to distributors instead of directly to retailers. “Two reasons for (the first) show,” Wayman said. “The Japanese had made their beachhead, and they wanted a venue to show their goods. And then our manufacturers, when color TV took off in 1965, started selling the first units.”

The show now represents every facet of the electronics industry, from automobiles to healthcare. “We wanted to make America the technology hub of the world,” he said. CES moved from Chicago to Las Vegas in 1978, and Wayman said it now draws 20,000 international guests from 120 countries. Everyone comes together in one venue, one time a year, for four days, he noted. “People say, ‘Jack, why don’t you have 10 days?’ Because fish, guests and tradeshows smell after four days,” he deadpanned.

As a trade org, CEA conducts market research and regulates standards and practices. In the ’60s, Wayman led the movement to debunk the belief that radiation from TV screens caused house fires. “We found that the firemen would come into homes all over the country and they’d blame the TV,” he said. “(Meanwhile), you had guys smoking in bed.” Wayman also fought for years to uphold the legality of home videotaping, which the Supreme Court approved in 1984, ruling against Universal Pictures and Disney, and in favor of Sony, which had developed the Betamax VCR, thus ruling that making individual copies of TV shows for later viewing was fair use. After retiring in 1993,
Wayman became CEA’s media spokesperson. He’s writing a book about the 100th anniversary of the electronic industry.