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We haven’t even had a moment to work off the extra holiday flab yet and it’s already that time again: the Consumer Electronics Show! Here at MAKE, each year, we program a little thing we call alt.CES. Here’s an excerpt from the intro I wrote in 2010:

Let’s be perfectly clear, we love gadgets here at MAKE. We like technology that works. Technology that expands our reach and abilities. Technology that’s fun, challenging, and rewarding to fiddle with, to improve upon. And we love technology that’s just dang cool. But there are gadget freaks like us, and then there’s the Super Bowl of the gadget freaky, the Consumer Electronics Show. CES is the annual orgy of gadget exhibitionism that’s equal parts personal technology uber-convention, PT Barnum-worthy three-ring circus o’ silliness, and traveling snake-oil theater (not to mention the after-hours, black-out Bacchanals). Not surprisingly, it all happens in Vegas.

Now all that might sound like fun, and it can be, at least the first time or two, and the first few miles worn from your shoe leather. Then the surreality of it all starts to kick in, everybody starts sounding like polyester-clad hucksters (even your blog buddies), and the phoniness of Vegas starts to overwhelm the whole enterprise. It’s definitely not necessarily a friendly place for those who prefer their technology… slower, more perennial, more about usefullness than hype, more thoughtfully designed and presented; tech that would satisfy the Maker’s Bill of Rights. Technology that doesn’t suck! And there’s plenty of tech that sucks at CES, gilded techno-turds that consumer electronics companies hope they can convince you doesn’t stink, given us enough razzle-dazzle, a bottomless swag bag, and barely-dressed “booth babes.”

In 2009 and ’10, we started a tradition of covering CES from a safe, sober distance, and a decidedly maker angle. The idea was to train the lens of MAKE onto what was coming out of CES and ask: Would this interest makers? What can makers do with this? Is it hackable? Is it open source? Can it be combined with other technology to create something truly interesting and useful?

In 2011, we continued this, but also sent a few writers to sniff around on our behalf. This year, we’re going to do the same thing. O’Reilly author Zigurd Mednieks (co-author of Programming Android) will be there as our eyes and ears, and Dale Dougherty, MAKE Founder and Publisher, will be there too, sharing his unique take on the event. Marc de Vinck, our Maker Shed Product Developer, will also be offering his perspective. And, Maker-in-Chief Sherry Huss and some of our Sales team will be onsite, as well. If you’re going to be at the show and see the MAKE team floating by, give them a shout out. And if you go to show, we’d love to hear your thoughts on it (post in the comments below).

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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