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The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), inducted 14 visionaries into the Consumer Technology (CT) Hall of Fame at its annual awards dinner, held last night at Capitale in New York City. CTA created the Hall of Fame in 2000 to honor industry pioneers and entrepreneurs.
This year's honorees include John Briesch, the Sony executive who led the launch of the compact disc (CD); Dr. John Cioffi, the father of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL); Robert Cole, founder of World Wide Stereo; Richard Doherty, an influential technology journalist and industry analyst; Peter Lesser, smart home pioneer and founder of X-10 USA; Mike Romagnolo, founder of DOW Stereo/Video; and Edgar Villchur, inventor of the acoustic suspension speaker.
In addition, two teams are also part of the 2018 class. First, the co-founders of Thiel Audio, Kathy Gornik and Jim Thiel and the co-founders of Skype, the person-to-person video phone platform: Janus Friis, Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, Jaan Tallinn and Niklas Zennström.
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, praised the inductees for their contributions that have helped to grow the U.S. economy. He said, “Tonight, we honor the leaders that inspire us and motivate us to think outside the box. The entrepreneurs in the CT Hall of Fame are an extraordinary group. They inspire us to be better and encourage us to reach for the stars."
The first inductee to accept his award was John Briesch who advised attendees, “If you have a passion, a new technology or a dream, seek out partners and instill in them your passion. Build networks within your area of expertise to create a working team of people who believe."
Next, Dr. Cioffi, thanked Stanford University for the support it gave him during the development of the DSL high-speed data technology. “With my Stanford affiliation, it has always been about my students over the years. They propped me up and have been involved in everything I've done," he said.
Robert Cole, founder of Worldwide Stereo said, "Nobody gets here alone," as he recognized the inspiration his family has given him. From his mother who shared her love of music, to his brother who taught him the inner workings of speakers to his wife of 45 years who stood by him. "It's hard to fail when you have that kind of support."
Sabrina Doherty accepted the award on behalf of her late father, industry analyst Richard Doherty. Sabrina recalled the many road trips to tradeshows the Doherty family took. "It was at these tech shows where we would walk the halls and he would point out people and tell us how they made our world better and how their vision, discoveries and guidance upgraded our lives."
Kathy Gornik, the co-founder of Thiel Audio and former CTA Chairman as well as chair of multiple CTA boards, said, "We were a little company in a garage in Kentucky and if it hadn't been for CES, I really don't know how we would have grown this company to become a worldwide player. We were not huge, but plenty big enough for us."
Early smart home entrepreneur Peter Lesser shared his respect to the industry he participated in for more than 40 years. "Just to be on the same list as so many industry greats is a bit crazy, certainly gratifying but above all very humbling," he said. "I will never forget this night, this industry and the great people in it."
Michael Romagnolo of DOW Stereo/Video thanked the many people, manufacturers and businesses who helped his independent electronics store grow into one of the largest in the country. "I just want to let you know that this is one of the biggest honors of my life," he said.
CEO and President of VOXX International, Pat Lavelle, accepted the award on behalf of Edgar Villchur. Villchur founded Acoustics Research (AR) whose products and inventions set the standard for high-quality audio. "Being the current guardian of AR, we strive to carry Edgar's goal of truth in listening, building hi-res audio players and high fidelity hi-res headphones that have won numerous awards and accolades around the globe," Lavelle said.
Finally, the Honorable Darrell Issa surprised guests to accept his 2017 award, after being unable to attend last year due to the Congressional voting schedule. He helped establish pro-tech and free market policies in Congress after a successful career as CEO of Directed Electronics. During his speech, Congressman Issa shared his experiences as a young businessman, driving from Cleveland to Chicago on little sleep just for the opportunity in exhibit at CES.
With the 2018 class, the CT Hall of Fame grows to 260 inventors, engineers, retailers, journalists and entrepreneurs who conceived, promoted and/or wrote about the innovative technologies, products and services that connect and improve the lives of global consumers.
The inductees were selected by media and industry professionals, who judged the nominations submitted by manufacturers, retailers and journalists. To learn more about the CT Hall of Fame program and for information on the 2019 nomination process, visit CTA.tech. Complete profiles of the honorees are in the November issue of CTA’s magazine It Is Innovation (i3).
About Consumer Technology Association
Consumer Technology Association (CTA)TM is the trade association representing the $377 billion U.S. consumer technology industry, which supports more than 15 million U.S. jobs. More than 2,200 companies – 80 percent are small businesses and startups; others are among the world’s best-known brands – enjoy the benefits of CTA membership including policy advocacy, market research, technical education, industry promotion, standards development and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CTA also owns and produces CES® – the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. Profits from CES are reinvested into CTA’s industry services.