Say what you will about its ongoing relevance, but the Consumer Electronics Show has, in years past, offered just what it has claimed to: a glimpse of the future of gadgetry. The show saw the public introduction of the VCR. And of the camcorder. And the CD player. And the DVD. And the plasma TV.
The trade show's increasingly enormous floor has also introduced, however, innovations of a decidedly less game-changing variety. Some of them have been prescient. Some of them have been puerile. Many of them have been weirdly, wonderfully wacky. With that in mind, here's an incomplete list of some of the craziest gizmos introduced at CES gatherings past. And here's to all the Butler-in-a-Boxes that will be unleashed upon the world at this year's show.
The FM stereo headset that could "be worn, Martian-like, on the head," 1969: Panasonic's headphones, debuted at one of the first CES gatherings in New York City, made their wearer, apparently, "look like a 'man from Mars' with two antennas pointing out." They sold for about $100 in contemporary currency.
The personalized car alarm, 1969: The "Moonlighter" speaking car alarm, debuted at the same CES, traded the typical siren for a more customized message. (The one sampled at the show: "Help! I am a Buick Riviera, New York license number XXXX. I am being stolen! Help! Call the police!")
The voice-controlled calculator, 1982: Introduced by Panasonic, the device would actually prove pretty prescient. (Newsweek, however, couldn't help but poke a little fun when describing the product's appeal: "In other words, you may never have to punch those little buttons again (was it ever so hard?)")