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Six days of peace, love and consumer electronics, though not necessarily in that order. That was Live 94, the biggest, bestest shop window yet for home cinema, TV, video computers, video games, musical instruments, in-car sounds and just about everything else to do with home entertainment. No less than 186,484 people made the journey to Earl’s Court in the third week of September -- 32% more than the previous year the organisers are quick to point out --  and few went away disappointed. There was something for everyone, including some tantalising glimpses into the future,  but it was the home cinema demonstrations that seem to capture most people’s imaginations. Upstairs, on the first floor, the cream of the world’s AV manufacturers, and Home Cinema magazine, assembled to preach the gospel according to Saint Dolby. Judging by the more or less constant crowds along the Dolby Promenade the message was being received loud and clear.


Elsewhere in the body of the exhibition there were numerous other surround-sound demos and at times the cacophony of music, bangs and explosions must have come close to breaching health and safety limits, anyone selling ear protectors would have done a roaring trade


There were plenty of new products to be seen, including several dozen that were being launched at the show, here’s just a very small sample. The eagerly anticipated Panasonic 3DO interactive ‘Multiplayer’ system made its UK debut at Live. The combination of stunning graphics, highly playable games and eventually movies on disc suggest it could have a very promising future. Channel 4 and Nokia chose to launch the first PALplus widescreen broadcasts in the UK at Live 94, this too could have a far-reaching effect on home entertainment. Acomex were demonstrating Control Plus+ multi-function remote control, the next stage in the development of the Video Plus+ VCR timer programming system and Toshiba’s outstanding Quadryl range of NICAM TVs and Dolby Pro Logic sets could were seen and heard in public for the first time. There were also new home cinema products from Arcam, Celestion, Denon, Linn, Mordaunt-Short,  Polk and  Tannoy, to name just a few.


However, most people would agree that the Sony stand was the high point of Live 94, though the word stand hardly does justice to what amounted to a show within a show. It was the largest stand ever to be seen in the consumer electronics industry and was reputed to have cost £1 million. The statistics are mind boggling; it covered an area larger than the football pitch at Wembley Stadium; 55 tonnes of steel and 12 tonnes of sand were used in the construction, and it consumed enough electricity (65,000 watts), to power a small town. Oh, and they had lots of interesting things to see there as well...


Live 94 will be remembered for a lot of things, including the atmosphere of optimism amongst the exhibitors, that the recession was finally over and confidence was returning to consumer electronics. No-one who saw it will forget the tunnel made out of TVs on the Sony stand, Jeremy Beadle seemed to be everywhere, and the legend of the blue Microsoft carrier bag was born. They were given to visitors as they arrived, and cleverly self-destructed two hours later, spreading their contents over the floor. (Note to the Microsoft -- don’t give up the day job, stick to making computer software!).



Ó R. Maybury 1994 3009




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