Jack Wayman, Inventor of the Consumer Electronics Show, Dies at 92

Courtesy of Consumer Electronics Association

He helped create and produce the first show in 1967 with 100 exhibitors. This year’s event in Las Vegas drew 3,600

Jack Wayman, the unapologetic industry cheerleader who was instrumental in the creation of the Consumer Electronics Association and its supersized International CES trade show, died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Boulder, Colo. He was 92.

“The consumer electronics industry has lost a legend and, more personally, I have lost a great friend and mentor,” CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro said in announcing the news on Tuesday. “Jack’s contributions to our association and our industry are numerous and momentous. We stand on his shoulders.”

A super salesman and showman, Wayman oversaw the evolution of the EIA Consumer Products Division — where he was named its first director in 1963 —with its $50,000 budget and two employees into the Consumer Electronics Group. The CEG later became the independent CEA.

Wayman cut the ribbon on the first International CES trade show in 1967, which consisted of 100 exhibitors and 17,000 attendees. The 2014 show in January in Las Vegas, in stark contrast, hosted more than 3,600 exhibitors and 160,000 attendees. The CEA, which represents the $211 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry, says CES is the continent’s largest annual event. 

“Jack Wayman didn’t invent the words 'consumer electronics,' but his choice of those two words for the trade show he did invent coalesced an industry behind them,” Richard Ekstract, former editor-in-chief of Video Review magazine, said in a statement. “Jack was the right person at the right time who was needed to bring an industry together via a singular and extraordinary trade event. It was his unique vision that unified the disparate elements we now know as the consumer electronics industry.”

Wayman also represented the industry at congressional hearings and before federal and state regulatory agencies, on both domestic and international issues, while making thousands of appearances on local TV and radio stations during nationwide tours to introduce the latest in industry products and technologies to America’s consumers.

In recent years, he served as a media spokesperson and as a judge for the CE Hall of Fame. He continued to mentor CEA staff and serve as an unofficial industry historian.

In July, CEA made a $1 million contribution to the CEA Foundation in celebration of Wayman’s more than 50 years of achievements and contributions to the consumer technology industry. CEA will honor him with a special tribute service to be held in November in New York in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Consumer Electronics Division Awards Tribute, the CE Hall of Fame Dinner and CES Unveiled New York.

A native of Miami, Wayman attended Davidson College in Charlotte, N.C., and served in Europe during World War II as a combat infantry company commander. He fought at the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart with Cluster and two Presidential Citations, among many other accolades. Last year, France inducted him as a chevalier for his military service. 

Survivors include five children, 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. A memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Boulder. Donations in his name may be made to Davidson College and the CEA Foundation.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

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