Consumer Electronics' 2008 Hall of Fame

Our industry has again honored its own. The Consumer Electronics Association, sponsors of the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), has announced 12 new inductees to the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame. Awards will be presented October 21 at a special Hall of Fame Dinner, scheduled for the Four Seasons in Las Vegas as part of the CEA's annual fall Industry Forum.

Cindy Stevens, senior director of communications at CEA and the editor of Vision magazine, has overseen the Hall of Fame program since its inception in 2000. The first year, she explains, 50 pioneers and industry leaders, many of them legends in the audio industry, were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Since then, inductees have been limited to 10 individuals or pairs (as in spouse or co-inventor teams) per year. With the addition of this year's 12, the Hall of Fame will include 134 individuals.

Members of the Hall of Fame fall into one of four categories: Inventors/Engineers, Sales and Marketing, Retailers, and Journalists. Only one journalist per year is admitted. This year, of the three Inventors/Engineers, the person most familiar to audiophiles is Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, pioneer of microphone and headphone technology. Of the others, Ken Kutaragi, the father of the Sony PlayStation, is unreliably rumored to be a secret idol of Stereophile's John Marks, who recently wrote about the original PlayStation. Also honored are Donald Linder and Martin Cooper, who variously initiated development and led the design and construction team of that now ubiquitous disrupter of music and movies, the cell phone.

Some readers may have mixed feelings about this year's journalist honoree, the late Hans Fantel. A founding editor of Stereo Review, Fantel covered consumer electronics for the New York Times for 31 years, for the most part focusing on mass-market equipment while sending the High End down the low road. Wes Phillips's tribute to Fantel includes a link to one of the columnist's most moving articles, "Poignance Measured in Digits."

In Sales and Marketing we find Joe Clayton, who, after two decades with RCA, went on to launch DirecTV and become CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio. Eddy Hartenstein built DirecTV into the second largest pay-TV service in the US, and Warren Lieberfarb has been dubbed by Variety "the Father of the DVD."

As honored Retailers, Jewel and David Abt, founders of the Midwest's 1000-employee Abt Electronics chain, join former Circuit City CEO Richard Sharp. Also honored, in a catch-all miscellaneous category, is Dean Dunlavey, a lawyer for Sony, who ensured the success of the VCR when he successfully argued the Betamax case before the US Supreme Court.

Reviewing the entire Hall of Fame, the members (all male) with a connection to audio include Dr. Amar Bose, Dr. Karlheinz Brandenburg, Dr. Dieter Seitzer, and Dr. Heinz Gerhuser (codevelopers, MP3 codec), John "Jack" Doyle (founding president, Pioneer), Alan Dower Blumlein, Paul Klipsch, Atwater Kent (manufactured the open set radio), Ernst F.W. Alexanderson (radio and TV pioneer), Walter Fisher (Zenith), Sol Polk, Thomas Edison, and Emil Berliner (phonograph and gramophone), Peter Laurits Jensen, Benjamin Abrams (cofounder, Emerson Radio and Phonograph Corp.), Lee DeForest (triode vacuum tube, pioneer radio broadcast of Enrico Caruso), Ray Dolby, Carl Eilers (stereo FM broadcast), Reginald Fessenden (made voice radio possible), Avery Fisher, Frank Freimann (president, Magnavox Corp.), Dr. Sidney Harman, Heinrich Hertz (triggered invention of telegraph and radio), Eldridge Johnson (founder, Victor Talking Machine Company), Henry Kloss (most recently of Cambridge SoundWorks and Tivoli Audio), Saul Marantz (the first receiver), Guglielmo Marconi (telegraph and radio pioneer), Hermon Hosmer Scott, and Nikola Tesla (alternating current, wireless radio waves, and, inadvertently, God only knows how many myths).

Honorees are chosen from a list of several hundred nominees by a panel of 15 to 20 judges comprising media and PR professionals and CEA board members. The judges most recently met February 19 in New York City.

According to Cindy Stevens, "We put anyone who comes to us and expresses interest in judging on the panel. The judging is fun, interesting, and lively, because everyone comes with different history and knowledge. I'm basically the facilitator, and try to keep the boys (and two females on this year's panel) in line." The only journalist on this year's panel, for example, is from Sound & Vision.

Assuming becoming a judge is as easy as it sounds, it would behoove CEA members from the audiophile press and industry to take a more active role in the nominations. We need the Bob Carvers, John Curls, J. Gordon Holts, Lew Johnsons, Mark Levinsons, Harry Pearsons, and David Wilsons of our industry in the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.