CES explained

Every year, around this time, we start banging on about something called CES. If you're a seasoned tech fan, then chances are that you know only too well what we're bleating about. However, if you're a newbie to the world of gadgets, or to Pocket-lint, then a few words of explanation are probably in order.

CES stands for Consumer Electronics Show, so you won't be surprised to learn that it's an exhibition dedicated to the consumer electronics world. Taking place each January in Las Vegas, Nevada, the show first started in 1967 and has been gathering pace ever since. CES pretty much takes over Sin City for about a week, although it has strong competition from the Adult Entertainment Expo (or "the porn show", as it's commonly called) that usually takes place at the Sands Expo Center at the same time. Although there are plenty of tourists around Las Vegas in January, the majority of visitors are either there for CES or the Adult Expo - and it's not too difficult to tell which ones are which.

CES takes place at the gigantic Las Vegas Convention Center, but the action doesn't stop there. There are also product demos, press conferences and various clandestine techie meetings to be found in bars, casinos and hotels up and down the Strip throughout the first week in January, so you never know where the next big story is coming from.

Last year's show saw more than 120,000 attendees, including 5,000 journalists, analysts and bloggers, while a staggering 20,000 new products were unveiled making this, categorically, the biggest tech show in the world. Some of the products displayed at the show are simply prototypes and some are destined only for the US market. Here in the UK, we usually have to wait for several months before we catch a glimpse of the new products on these shores, and some never arrive at all. However, it does offer a sneak peek at what the future may bring.

With the notable exception of Apple, which likes to do its own thing, all of the world's big tech brands such as Sony, Panasonic, LG, Toshiba and Samsung will be there to showcase their new goods in a series of press conferences and product demos. Aside from the big boys, pretty much every other tech company under the sun will be there, including new start-up companies who are just waiting for their big break.

If you're familiar with the IFA tech show in Berlin (the European equivalent of CES) then you'll know that after the press preview days, the German organisers let the public in to race around the halls in excitement and grab some hands-on time with the gadgets of tomorrow. However, CES is a much more covert operation - if you're not a journalist or a tech professional, then you're not getting in.

Even if you haven't heard of CES before, we know that you must have heard of some of the products that have made their debut there over the years. It was way back in 1970 when the VCR was first unveiled at the show, while 1981 saw the introduction of both the camcorder and the CD player. DVD was unleashed on the world in 1996, we first saw the Xbox in 2001, while 2004 saw the first glimpse of Blu-ray.

While Sin City is undoubtedly a fun place for the great and good of the tech world to get together once a year, it's not the easiest place to work. The obvious distraction are the 24-hour bars and casinos; however the lack of clocks (there aren't any in the casinos) the lack of natural daylight (there aren't any windows either) and the dry desert air make Las Vegas a tough place to negotiate, especially with jetlag. But we're prepared to tough out the relentless noise of slot machines, the lack of usable Wi-Fi and the threat of developing a gambling addiction - all in the name of keeping you, dear reader, up to date with the latest gadgets and gizmos.

The Pocket-lint team will be there in force to bring you the latest tech stories from the biggest tech get-together in the known universe. Armed with copious amounts of our own gadgetry, along with preposterous amounts of caffeine-based drinks, we'll be storming the show floor to get up close and personal with as many of the new products as we can possibly get our grubby little mitts on.

Don't miss out on the action - you can keep up to date with the latest news from CES 2011 here.