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28 May 2022
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Another Trade Show Review?

Yes, This Time It's NAB: The National Association of Broadcasters

Covid occasioned a pause in trade shows. The last one I attended before the pandemic shut them down was the 2020 Consumer Electronic Show, which I duly "reviewed." I missed NAMM in late January 2020 voluntarily since I had attended the previous year and it's a longer drive than is Las Vegas. Little did I know that there would be nothing but "virtual trade shows" for the next two years. I attended virtual CES in 2021 and attempted to attend a few others with similar results. Here's a review:

My Virtual Trade Show Review

Virtual trade shows suck.

My Review of NAB 2022 in Las Vegas

What a difference a season makes! When I attended CES in 2022, the first thing I noted was the bizarre Padlocking of the Waterfountain tableau. Everyone was required to wear masks, and we got to select our own colored sticker denoting our willingness to exchange biological material. I was a greenie, and after a few minutes of wonder I think the whole concept became subliminal. NAB was far less viriphobic. Very few masks, no refused handshakes, little standoffishness. To be sure, the crowds, as with CES, were greatly attenuated, and there was almost no crowding anywhere.

Are you old enough to remember "broadcasting"? When the term "station" actually meant there was a building, typically with a studio and a transmitter, where people created what were called "programs" in the past and "content" now? If you are, and you took a long nap in the intervening decades, you wouldn't really recognize it any more. Yes, there were transmitter manufacturers, yes there were radio gear manufacturers (such as Eventide Inc, manufacturer then and now of the famous profanity delay) and many other vendors. I got to say "Hello" to Jim Wood, the founder of Inovonics, a company of similar vintage, and to an ever-decreasing number of friends and colleagues from the days when I actually was employed in a real broadcasting operation.

But now, for better and for worse, it's all internet. Well, internet and incomprehensible jargon. I'd happily provide a brief appreciation on how it's all different, but I spent as much time bemused by the exhibits for things I barely understood as I did interacting with potential customers and colleagues and realized that I'm not even qualified to summarize the changes. One consequence of personal and corporate significance is that the profanity delay of which I wrote above is becoming less relevant. The Federal Communications Commission no longer has sway over what people hear except over the "air," which is less by the day, and profanity hardly matters any more. (Not that it ever did, but thank you FCC nonetheless!) The NAB show is now a hodgepodge of exhibitors touting what amount to program databases, with their own "solutions" for "ingestion" and "playout." Long live the Cloud!

Unlike the Consumer Electronic Show, which has its share of goofy and ironic wares, the NAB show tends to be pretty serious despite its dedication to the production of, for example, "cable news" programs. Since I have photos, I'll share some highlights that I found interesting, or at least quirky.

If you've ever watched a major tennis tournament on the television, you will have seen aerial shots from a camera like this. It flies! It swoops! it hovers! It's really pretty amazing when you're watching in the stadium as well. One company had a pretty convincing display at NAB. I saw how intricate the cablage is that makes it so fast, versatile, and, hopefully, safe to fly over a crowd.

A couple of times I tried to take a picture of the camera assembly itself at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, but I could never divine who manufactured it, and now I got to see it up close. It was as much fun to watch as my initialsake Roger Federer.

Some things never change. The human voice, at least the one coming from genuine humans, is relentlessly analog. Microphones are necessary to turn voices into electrical signals suitable for distribution beyond the range of a healthy scream.

Here we have a selection from Sonifex. There were also selections from Shure and many other manufacturers. Apparently you can now have a bespoke microphone manufactured and imported fairly easily. It's amazing just how many microphone brands and models exist!

Even more amazing is the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic voices. One company who specializes in this process was exhibiting. I have a friend who lost his voice to cancer recently, and I inquired, potentially on his behalf, if he could speak again using their process. Answer: "Yes." Practical? Not yet, given the expense, but as with everything computer, expect the price to plummet and become a phone "app" someday soon.

NAB occurred near the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Putin called a "special military operation," and which the rest of the world more plangently called a "war." For whatever reason, the letter Z became symbolic, at least in Russia, for support of the war.

Hewlett Packard and Intel partnered in making some computer hardware and used this enormous, suspended Z as a symbol of their partnership. Of course, it was an innocent usage, and undoubtedly planned long before the invasion.

How very sad for HP and Intel, not to mention Ukraine.

Historical Note: The chip manufacturer Zilog tried to copyright the letter Z back in the '70s. If I remember correctly Kodak tried to copyright the color yellow and some shoe company was whining recently about competitors using red. Busy, busy, busy.

Above, I mentioned "incomprehensible jargon." This isn't the only or even the worst of the signs I encountered. It just happened to be the first exemplar I came upon while reviewing my photos.

 

OK, here's another one. Couldn't resist.

You are what you watch! How pseudo-Orwellian

55 or so years ago it was my privilege to lug a station wagon full of remote gear to broadcast a live jazz show from the Blue Note in New York City. The gear was heavy, cantankerous, and delicate, but at least it didn't work very reliably. I remember falling into a reverie and visualizing this very box, with green, red, and yellow knobs.

It had a television screen for setting equalization, and colored "grain-of-wheat" lamps for level indicators. And it didn't even require long, snaking cables and connectors, since it worked using radio waves.

I woke up recently and here it is! Amazingly, I'm still around, as is the Blue Note!

   

Last jargon sign. I promise.

15 years ago I noted what I called "creeping solutionism," a phenomenon by which products transmogrified into "solutions." It seems that Techflex caught on late, but somehow they've done it.

A company called vMix was exhibiting a bananaphone in their Hall of Relics. I wasn't sure at the show what vMix was or did. This quote is from their web site:

"Drop by the North Hall at NAB and say G'day, grab a mousepad and check out the vMix Hall of Relics! Oh and if you have an NFT, don't forget to wear it to the booth! See some of you there tomorrow!"

I didn't have an NFT, but given that they were exhibiting a bananaphone*, how could I not use this photo? Looking vMix up on the internet, it seems they provide Live Production and Streaming Software. Streaming is BIG!

 

Just to help me calm down, here is a picture of the Mozart Next 7000 Compact FM Transmitter. This is an actual piece of broadcast hardware. It connects to an antenna and transmits signals over the air to real radio receivers. Not a single scare quote in this whole paragraph!

I feel so much better now.

I seem to have finished the NAB Show review, but maybe in my next blogitem I'll say a few words about the changes in Las Vegas itself. I'm not out of photos yet.

Talk About First World Problems!

I listen to an internet 'radio' 'station' in the background. Sometimes I'll hear a song I like whose title and artist I don't know. I look at the 'station' web site which dutifully lists the title and artist. Except for the past day or so the web site hasn't been working. In such cases, I ask my cell phone "Hey Google, what song is this"? But sometimes even Google can't identify the song. Now what do I do?

I

* The banana is our official household fruit, and I now declare it the official fruit of the RIKLBlog as well.

2022
Richard Factor

NP:

"Castles in the Sky"

Blonde on Blonde

(

ToTD

This T-shirt deserves a blogitem of its own. It came from Stan Veit's Computer Mart in the Polk Hobby shop in New York City. He had all the early hobby computers: MITS, Altair, Sol, etc. He ran it with his wife Dede and the delightful, roller-skating bookkeeper Suzie Kerr, who eventually became an astrologer in Nashville and recently became deceased.

I miss that crowd even more than I miss my HP9825 and the display kit from Computer Mart, the purchase of which was the initial reason I visited their pioneering emporium.


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