Conference Circuit: An Iconic Global Tech Event Turns 90

A technology industry event rich in history begins in Berlin. Plus: Aquarium and zoo professionals go wild in Florida.

It’s not every day that an industry event reaches the ripe old age of 90. But September 5, the German Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) consumer electronics show celebrates its nine decades as a mainstay of the conference circuit. What began as an exhibition for nascent broadcasting technologies has evolved into one of the world’s largest exhibitions of consumer technology.

Plenty of eyes will be glued to IFA this weekend, as industry experts predict it will be Samsung Electronics’ last chance to capture attention for its own smartphone and smart watch offerings before Apple holds its own event, rumored to be focused on similar products, next week.

But when the event began way back in 1924, the concept of advanced wristwatch technology was far, far away. The Dick Tracy comic strip, and its iconic wrist radio, wouldn’t even debut until 1931.

Since its inception, IFA has been steeped in history, both good and bad. Television made one of its earliest appearances at IFA in 1928, and Albert Einstein made a prominent appearance at the seventh IFA in 1930. Audio of his address survives to this day. The Nazi regime turned the event into a propaganda vehicle, and World War II put IFA on hold for years.

But in the decades since, IFA has returned to its roots as a place for the latest in consumer tech to make its grand debut, with the likes of compact discs, widescreen televisions, and MP3s appearing first at the event.

The Week Ahead

Sept. 8-9: How do you capitalize on winning approval from the U.S. surgeon general? Find out at the 2014 Nutrition Education and Breastfeeding Conference of the National WIC Association. The organization, which advocates for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and promotes breastfeeding education, among other causes, will focus some of its events on the surgeon general’s recent call to action supporting breastfeeding.

Sept. 12-18: The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ annual conference, in Orlando this year, marks a perfect marriage of subject matter and location. A plethora of nearby zoos and aquariums, from Busch Gardens Tampa to the Florida Aquarium, offer an added reason for industry pros to attend.

Down the Line

Oct 12-15: If an association is focused on a niche topic, it’s easy to take the “world’s largest exhibition” title. But when your industry is gigantic, it takes more legwork. Such is the case for the American Public Transportation Association, which will hold its annual meeting and exposition in Houston next month. How many participating companies does it take to earn the top spot? By APTA’s count, 750. That’s a whole lot of bus rides.

(Adam Berry/Getty Images)

Morgan Little

By Morgan Little

Morgan Little is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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