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Converging on Vegas: The 2004 Consumer Electronics Show

I was certain I was having a nightmare-stuck in the unquestionably hellish vortex of Las Vegas, surrounded by 130,000 propellerheads, all kicking tires on the newest and glitziest electronic gizmos, displayed in more than 2,400 exhibits. The items ranged from handheld wireless Internet devices to $150,000 speaker systems and everything in between, including all the component parts to construct these products, from computer chips to naked speaker cones.

The pandemonious mirage continued in hundreds of individual hotel rooms where innumerable stereo systems were assembled for the perusal and hopeful approval of herds of highbrow oddballs, who, to a man, were out to prove his knowledge of hi-fi technology was second to none. The surreal ritual in each of these display rooms was the same: a sofa packed with these near-zombies, their hypnotized gaze glued unwaveringly to the mass of electronics huddled between a pair of speakers, listening intently. Routinely one or two would rise from their seat to, predictably, walk to the rear of one of the speakers and bend over to examine its backside as if hoping to discover some secret information that would reveal why the system sounded so good-or so average.

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