From Radio Row to Digital Downtown

(Credit: Urbanite)

The technological descendants of these radios, once found on Radio Row, can be found at Digital Downtown at the World Financial Center, a stone's throw from where Radio Row once stood. (Photo via montanaman1 on Flickr)

The gadget industry has come home to New York, where consumers’ love affair with all-things electronic started, says Martin Porter the executive producer of Digital Downtown.

“New York is the birthplace of the $161 billion consumer-electronics industry,” he says. “Ever since the 1920s and Radio Row.”

Radio Row was a cluster of electronics stores in lower Manhattan that existed for about a half-century, before construction of the World Trade Center displaced it. Now, down the block at the Winter Garden is a first-time electronics expo, Digital Downtown, which has brought together 30 companies to show off their latest products.

Thursday was the first day and event organizers said it was packed, drawing crowds from the Wall Street set to those just out for a stroll on a nice day.

The Winter Garden is a sprawling public space — with palm trees — and the expo, running through Saturday, is free and open.

Two of the larger attractions are a Best Buy trailer and a Pioneer dome. Porter says a display of a brain-powered remote control at Best Buy is a big draw: “You put on a helmet and control [things] with your mind.” Hmmm.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which holds the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas every year, is a partner in Digital Downtown.

Martin says he hopes this is the first of many years to come for the event. Eventually, there will be a whole week dedicated to gadgetry with displays all over the city.

-- Garett Sloane

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