Heroes of the AV Industry

Any of you who have been reading my column for a while (thanks, by the way) know that I’m addicted to news. Television, the Internet, magazines, newspapers — it doesn’t matter. I’m fascinated by what goes on in the world because it’s usually stranger and more interesting than fiction.

Two really significant things have gone on this past week, in my humble opinion, and I’m rather bewildered by the contrast between them. The two events I speak of are the Olympic competition in London, and the landing of the Curiosity rover on the planet Mars.

The Olympics have been the lead story since they opened, as they often are. American heroes in their Chinese-made “Swiss Miss” uniforms, battling for the gold.

Inspiring indeed.

On the other hand, while it got a fair amount of attention, the landing of the rover was treated as the “B” story, with a great deal of tongue-in-cheek commenting about it being a great moment for geeks.

And I think the two stories should have been reversed. America has never fallen behind the world in athletics (even if there is a lot of debate about our general fitness). But we HAVE been told we were falling behind in science and math. And for all of us, NASA just told the rest of the world that America can still pull off technology advances that will make heads spin. They shouted, for all of us, “Oh, yeah, critics? Take a Mars rover up your…”

So, this week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about heroes… both the kind we consciously elevate to that status, and the kind we neglect to. And the kind we have to thank for the AV/staging industry we enjoy. So, without further ado, here are just a few of the people I think should be heroes of OUR industry:

Thomas Alva Edison: The Wizard of Menlo Park has always held a special place in my heart (his portrait has always been on the wall in my office, wherever I happen to be). The incandescent electric light, audio recording, the motion picture… the list goes on and on. Edison fathered many of the technologies that spawned our industry. He had a couple of famous quotes that I felt defined us, too. He said “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” which is true, but most people don’t know he went on to say “Often, a genius is merely a talented person who has done their homework” — which I think defines the AV business. More of Edison’s wisdom can be found here: http://www.thomasedison.com/quotes.html

George Eastman: A great and self-made American inventor and entrepreneur, George invented the first flexible roll film, which made movies practical, and founded the company “Kodak.” Ever hear of it? The Great Yellow Father, as a corporation, did more to create the modern AV industry than any other organization. Now dying an unfortunate death, they, and their founder, deserve our respect for what they have left to us.

Rube Goldberg: Rube was the Pulitzer-winning cartoonist whose fantastically complicated inventions amused the world for decades. His drawings of the pitfalls of modern technology, I feel, illustrate what we do for a living. In the staging (and general AV) worlds, as we work to bring multiple products together into a working whole, we often feel like we’re trying to get the squirrel to pull the string and free the chicken from the cage to eat the corn to unbalance the… whatever.

PC Guy: Actor John Hodgman played the ultimate AV geek in the commercials where he was up against the Red Bull-drinking, grungy, “cool” kid who was “Mac.” I mean, I’m a Mac user, but I have to admit identifying more with PC Guy, who was much more realistic about working with technology than the annoyingly smug kid who tormented him. Plus, didn’t he remind you of Gary? 😉

Apple pulled the ads, mostly because those of us who buy and implement technology seemed to sympathize with PC Guy. More of my friend here:

So that’s it, just a few of the people who I think should be heroes to our industry. Not a complete list, but we have to start somewhere. Send me your nominations, and we’ll post a list on the blog.

rAVe Rental [and Staging] contributor Joel R. Rollins, CTS, is general manager of Everett Hall Associates, Inc. and is well known throughout the professional AV industry for his contributions to industry training and his extensive background in AV rental, staging and installation. Joel can be reached at joelrollins@mac.com