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A shocking lack of journalistic standards at CES

I was deeply upset to read about recent misbehaviour by reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show, the Vegasfest of all things digital, noisy, tiny and shiny.CES has already flooded my RSS reader with thousands of near-identical postings from hundreds of near-identical blogs.
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Written by Rupert Goodwins on

I was deeply upset to read about recent misbehaviour by reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show, the Vegasfest of all things digital, noisy, tiny and shiny.

CES has already flooded my RSS reader with thousands of near-identical postings from hundreds of near-identical blogs. Engizmo? Jizgadget? They all blur into one. It's as if the rest of the hack world think they can compete with our very own Team Crave. The fools. I pity them.

But that desperation to stand out has led to some regrettable displays of tech vandalism - none more saddening than that from the young Turks at Gizmodo.

Noting that a large part of the CES experience involves TVs, and that a certain device called 'TV-B-Gone' is specifically designed to shut down tellies of all brands and models by spraying every infra-red OFF command known to man indiscriminately through the aether, they decided to combine the one with the other. They wandered the halls of the show, firing off their remotes of mass destruction with the carefree insouciance of B52 pilots floating thirty thousand feet above straw huts.

They even recorded their sins. Innocent marketing managers were caught in mid-spout, promising the world in front of strangely dark screens. Entire walls of promotional goodness were thrown into cosmic black, leaving booth babes and stand studs scrabbling for their mobile phones.

It wasn't big. It wasn't grown-up. And in particular, it wasn't clever. I've done stand duty on big shows before now. Let me tell you, this is the last thing you need. You're nursing a hangover from the night before (Yes, you are. You're in Vegas. You're with all your pals. The company is paying. What, you're going to sit in your hotel room reading improving religious tracts?).

And in the middle of all that pain, you're having to be nice to the dregs of society. Slack-jawed yokels here to see the lights. Your opposite numbers from the competition, pretending to be slack-jawed yokels here to see the lights. Worst of all, journalists. Your booth is falling apart, your demos are barely alive, and your boss is undecided whether to fire you for smelling of booze or for emptying their minibar.

It's all hanging by a thread.

Which is why having a bunch of yahoos turning off your monitors by remote control is so darn lame. What, like it matters?

Let me introduce you to Pigman, a floppy disk with a bootable program hacked together by the young Goodwins and his pals back in the day when we did the shows.

Pigman was a simple bit of software, loaded by slipping the disk into a computer's drive and hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del. Installing in seconds, it disabled Ctrl-Alt-Del, switched the display into a low-res but colourful mode that could be seen from many yards away, paused for a moment with a "PLEASE WAIT" message, then cycled every half a second between two cartoon frames.These showed a man and a pig engaged in a mutual activity that only needed those two frames to be completely unambiguous. Simple, yet effective.

Our modus operandi was equally simple, equally effective. On our break from stand duties, we toured the halls as if we were mere attendees. When we spotted a likely target, one of our number engaged the stand guardians in pointless yet intricate discussion. Then, one or more others slipped quietly from computer to computer, apparently appreciating the finer points of the hardware on display but in reality installing the payload.

When done properly, the loaders could be free and clear and a large crowd would gather, laughing and clapping before the stand owners could pull themselves away from our stooge to see what was going on. When they did - ah, all the pain was worth it.

And we were cross-platform. There were various Pigmen, including eight bit conversions for most of the home micros of the time. Our finest hit was an entire video wall designed to demonstrate the network capabilities of one particularly famous UK device - which it did, all too well.

When reminiscing and trying to recall the best bits, it's hard to choose between that first moment of awareness dawning on the face of the victim, and the building panic as they try to reset all their infected machines in front of an appreciative audience. There's also a lot to be said for those times, more common than one may suppose, when a stand could display animated bestiality for many minutes to passers-by before anyone seemed to notice anything awry.

Happy days. And, really, turning off tellies while hiding in the crowd just doesn't come close.

3/10, Gizmodites. Must try harder.

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