Stuntmen, 8-track collectors and others check out gadgets at CES

CES attracts all kinds of gadget lovers, not just people sent to the conference by employers

Years ago CEA stopped letting the public into its huge annual gadget show in Las Vegas, but the conference still attracts a fair share of non-industry people looking for the hottest new stuff.

Take stuntman Horace Knight. He claims to have been in practically every football movie ever made and also teaches stunt motorcycle driving at the famed Willow Springs track.

"I'm overwhelmed," he said from the sidelines of CES. A first time attendee, Knight was visiting the show from Los Angeles in hopes of finding the latest GPS technologies. He uses GPS devices mounted to his motorcycle that display his progress around a track on a map. He can use that map to show his students how to drive the track, rather than simply explain it to them.

Knight was also on the lookout for GPS devices that he can use on the motorcycle so he can record and refer back to the optimum speeds for doing certain stunts.

Raymond Macdonald, who works on car audio systems for Muntz Cartridge City, has been to every CES show since 1974. While he attends to see the latest in car audio systems, declining business has spurred him into a decidedly less high-tech direction.

These days, Macdonald has been doing some creating and restoring of eight-track tapes, the recording technology that faded away in the 1970s. In fact, a popular rock band that he declined to name recently hired him to produce one of its recent albums on a limited number of 8-track cassettes. They're collected typically by people who repair old vehicles and want to keep the original 8-track cassette player, he said.

There's not much about 8-track cassettes at CES, where usually only the most cutting-edge technology is on display. And since the aftermarket car audio industry has consolidated and is shrinking, Macdonald is considering skipping future CES conferences.

Still, plenty of people are wandering the halls in Las Vegas, really, just for the fun of it. Chris Cooper and Alex Burt are friends from Minneapolis who were admiring stylish humidifiers on the show floor on Tuesday. "I think I'm going to stay here all day," Burt joked, soaking up the steam from one humidifier to combat the dry Las Vegas desert air.

Cooper has been coming to CES for about four years, starting by accompanying his dad who attended to help a friend set up a booth at the show. Cooper and Burt work for Delta Airlines so were able to fly into Las Vegas on standby. They said they're at the show just to look at the cool products on display.

People attending CES just for fun may be few and far between, but you'd be hard pressed to find out by reading the color-coded badges attendees must wear. Badges indicate who are buyers, exhibitors, engineers, press and the catch-all "industry affiliate". That last one tends to be the badge worn by people who are not sent here by their employers.

"When we look at the badge, sometimes the badge doesn't indicate who they really are," said Rick Mansour, the director of sales and marketing for Prime Wire and Cable, based in California. "Sometimes they're looking for different [personal] needs of their own, and professionally."

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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