LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The electronics industry, hit for the past two years by the recession, scrambled Wednesday to unveil the latest in gadgets to grab the public's attention at the winter Consumer Electronics Show.
Growth has been meager due to the recession and the lack of a blockbuster new product on the order of the camcorder, compact-disc player or the videocassette recorder. Potential hot products such as digital audio tape, high-definition TV and compact-disc photography have not yet caught on or are not quite ready for mass consumption.
But exhibitors keep returning, with about 1,500 companies expected to be represented when the show opens Thursday, in the hopes of showcasing a new item that can find a niche in the $38 billion U.S. electronics industry.
Sales of electronics slumped heavily in 1991, posting less than a 1 percent gain in 1991 with $35.4 billion sold. The Electronic Industries Association has estimated 1992 sales gaining more than 7 percent to $38. 2 billion.
Attendance at the four-day event is expected to be around 75,000.
Some of the potential hot items include miniaturized products, such as a 1.75-pound mini-camcorder from Samsung, a credit card-sized Motorola pager dubbed the Confidant, and a hand-held Digital Book System from Franklin Electronic Publishers.
Companies are also pushing 'multi-media' products which merge audio and video in a computer and products based on compact disc technology.
Software Toolworks, the leader in producing compact-disc-based video games, plans to unveil its 2 millionth unit at the show and launch its 'Mario is Missing' game in conjunction with video game leader Nintendo.
Capstone Software will debut video games based on the hit movies 'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,' 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' and 'Wayne's World' along with its newest gambling simulation game, 'Trump Castle 3.'
Computing companies, which usually make their big product announcements two months earlier at the Comdex show in Las Vegas, have been coming to consumer electronics show more often recently.
Apple Computer Inc. introduced its plans for 'personal digital assistants' last year. Compaq Computer Inc. will exhibit for the first time as part of its move to triple the number of retail outlets carrying its products from 600 last month to 1,800 by the end of the first quarter.
IBM,which has been hit with a variety of negative developments in recent months, will also have a significant presence at the show. Its president, Jack Kuehler, will give the keynote address to the convention on Thursday.