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'Ahead of Its Time'

From the Archives: CED at Its Beginnings 21 Years Ago

To say that a lot has changed in the tech world in the 21 years since Consumer Electronics Daily launched Oct. 16, 2001, would be understatement at its best. One of the most profound changes has been a shift from bulky entertainment playback devices to an internet-powered, software-based world with virtual players and streamed content.

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A look at the headlines from the Dec. 3, 2001, issue of Consumer Electronics Daily shows major industry news items of the day, including a report that Panasonic was planning to introduce at CES 2002 40- and 45-inch LCD rear-projection TVs for sale in the U.S. The sets would be assembled at the Matsushita Kotobuki plant in Vancouver, Washington. The plant closed shop in 2008 due to the popularity of flat-panel TVs. Matsushita Kotobuki, which launched VCRs in 1975 and digital video cameras in 1997, was renamed Panasonic Shikoku Electronics in 2005; in 2010 it became Panasonic Healthcare.

Video rental chain Blockbuster shut down a four-market test of a reservation system that allowed customers to reserve titles online before picking up a VHS cassette or DVD in-store, we reported. The chain concluded it was a “Web idea that probably was ahead of its time that wasn’t economically viable.” Also that week, at Blockbuster rival Movie Gallery, executives filed to sell a combined 162,125 shares valued at $1.3 million. The chain shuttered in 2010.

Bob Pittman, then co-chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner, had a finger on the pulse of future tech trends in late fall 2001. Addressing the Western Cable Show, Pittman spoke of a home entertainment future rich with services made possible by a home network and the internet. “Once you have a data jack in the home next to your phone jack, you enable a whole new opportunity for services that goes beyond people’s current image of what the internet is.”

Pittman envisioned multiple solutions using “the broadband connection from the cable companies,” which would provide an “important revenue stream.” Once the technology is there, he said, “the entrepreneurs will come to the forefront to develop the next generation of applications.” Pittman predicted subscription VOD would be “a killer application” due to its flat-rate pricing.

A new audio encoder, Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), debuted at an Audio Engineering Society convention in New York. Dolby touted the codec as “far superior” to MP3 while using a third of the bandwidth.

Supersized retailers had store openings that week in 2001. Bookstore chain Borders opened a 25,000-square-foot location in metropolitan Chicago, offering 150,000 CDs, DVDs, books and periodicals. Borders ceased operations a decade later. CompUSA opened a 28,500-square-foot warehouse store near a technology hub in Huntsville, Alabama. At its peak, CompUSA operated 229 locations; today it’s e-commerce-only.

Disney Interactive launched a trivia challenge game on CD-ROM for the holiday season, we reported. An Oklahoma judge dismissed a shareholder suit against CD Warehouse, clearing the way for its purchase by The domain name was for sale Thursday for $10,195.

Some things aren’t that different at all. Twenty-one years ago this week, retailers were scrambling to get more Xbox game consoles on their shelves for the holiday season, which sounds a lot like holiday 2021 when Xboxes and PlayStation 5s were largely no-shows due to supply chain shortages. Warnings in summer 2022 of shortages into 2023 have eased. Xbox Series S bundles were on promotion over Black Friday and the higher end X Series is available at Walmart for $499.

We’re sorry we won’t be around for PlayStation 6 and the next-generation Xbox. A widely circulated response from Microsoft in October to concerns from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority over its proposed buy of Activision Blizzard says the next gen of game consoles won’t be released before fall 2028 at the earliest. We wish them well.