When Carl E. Smith founded the Smith Practical Radio Institute in Cleveland in 1934, radio was king. But other electrical goods were also growing in popularity. Things like electric stoves, clothes washers, toasters and coffee percolators.
Time travel ahead 79 years. The need for electronics has never been more demanding! But today, the revolution is led by computers and information technology and a host of consumer products and services ranging from wireless devices and GPS navigators to appliance repair and satellite dish set-up.
What Mr. Smith started eventually became the Cleveland Institute of Electronics - a distance learning school that offers diploma and associate degree courses in Electronics Technology and Computer Information. His first class started with 16 students and consisted of courses in radio and electronics engineering. Since 1956, when the CIE patented its "Auto-Programmed" self-study method, more than 350,000 students in the U.S. and some 70 foreign countries have gotten their start in electronics through the institute. Its curriculum has grown to include computer IT and systems management, conducted through online assignments and testing.
The relevance of electronics remains strong around the world. It manifests itself in many ways and regularly enters forums of economic and social import. Here are a few examples:
- Green energy. The push for green energy is no longer just about wind and solar power generation. It has expanded to other areas of conservation, and now has its own rack of political footballs including climate change and “cap and trade” legislation in various nations.
- Smart electric grid. The nation’s electricity distribution system is set to enter the digital age. The revamping includes advanced metering, two-way communication between consumers and utilities, and the ability to more efficiently regulate energy usage with thermostats, washers, dryers and refrigerators – the major electricity users in the home – with home energy dashboards.
- Computer hardware and software are always being updated or upgraded. For instance, Windows 8 is Microsoft’s new 2014 baby and operating system. It comes in six different versions: Starter, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate, OEM and Enterprise.
- New products and services. Things like cellular phones and access to the Internet are truly bringing more people and cultures together around the planet. What will happen next?
Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the Consumers Electronics Association (CEA) keeps its finger on the pulse of the of the $172 billion American consumer electronics industry. The group is about to host the 2014 International Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 2014. It is the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow. The show is expecting some 110,000 attendees and more than 2,500 exhibitors.
Some of the most anticipated exhibits will showcase mobile devices, green trends in design and packaging, the use of LED, e-ink for electronic paper displays and a large assortment of new computer applications.
The CEA also monitors sales of consumer electronics products across the land. In its 19th Annual Consumer Electronics Holiday Purchase Patterns Study, it estimated consumer electronics sales will increase 6% this holiday season, as compared to 2012. The CEA also reported that 80% of adults intended to purchase technology merchandise as a gift for the holidays, the highest figure in the history of the study. The most purchased products will be computer notebooks, portable mp3 players and flat-panel TVs. Other popular technology-related items that are expected to sell well are digital cameras, Blu-ray players, smartphones and eBook readers.
“Consumer enthusiasm for technology has been building,” explained Gary Shapiro, CEA’s president and CEO, at the end of November. “Results from the Thanksgiving weekend suggest consumer technology will be the must-have gift this holiday and will lead economic recovery in 2014.” Technicians and salesmen with expertise or proficiency for high-tech items may find prospects in this market.
Online shopping, like online training, is also growing. Based on new estimates from a variety of research groups, e-commerce sales should also be stronger for the 2013 holiday season.
Cyber Monday online sales were 5% higher this year than last, at an estimated $887 million, reported comScore, Inc., a Reston, Virginia-based company that measures digital sales.
“We’ve seen an encouraging start to the online holiday shopping season and it would appear that retailers’ aggressive and early marketing efforts have so far succeeded in persuading consumers to open their wallets online,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. That means that more people are shopping from home, or work, than ever before. An estimated 8.7 million Americans made a purchase on Cyber Monday this year, spending an average $102, comScore said.
Some of the largest e-commerce firms include Amazon.com, Apple, Best Buy, Target and Walmart. Likewise, some of the best selling products through Cyberspace are books, clothing, footware, computer hardware and software, autos and auto parts, home furnishings, iPods and iTunes, and travel arrangements made for airline flights and lodging accommodations.
Of course, just about everything has pros and cons! Some of the advantages of online shopping include convenience, selection and fast price comparison. Disadvantages center around fraud and security issues. And anyone who has received the wrong item or a broken product delivered by FedEx or UPS knows what a hassle it can be to return it.
How does all this relate to electronics training? Think about it. The digital world is expanding. And even more high-tech items are entering the marketplace in a variety of fields. Anyone with an understanding of basic computer IT and electronics will have an advantage over someone who lacks the training.
The sky’s the limit, regarding applications. However, the fields most often mentioned occur under the umbrella of education, lifestyle, entertainment, productivity and IT. But many more disciplines, and employment opportunities, take advantage of high tech tools or concepts.
Government agencies and the U.S. military probably lead the way in shear numbers. But auto mechanics must understand how microprocessors and digital modules work. Farmers are using high-tech equipment to plan, plow, harvest and market their crops or livestock. Medical and healthcare workers use their instruments everyday. Butchers, bakers, candle stick makers – and other retail clerks - will all be better prepared to do their jobs with a little computer savvy.
This brings us back to the CIE. The CIE is waiting to assist you, with beginning instruction or more advanced training. You can earn an Associate Degree in Electronics or Computer Technology, graduate from a career course, or go on to earn a Bachelor's Degree though CIE’s subsidiary, World College. CIE Bookstore offers many professional certificate programs as well.
Graduates leave CIE as skilled technicians or engineers equipped to better tackle the complexities of business and industry, whether it's in computer programming, microprocessor technology, manufacturing, appliance repair or in new fields related to green energy, the smart electric grid, cellular or satellite services and consumer electronics.
The CIE has a strong pedigree of instruction. It traces its roots back 79 years. Obviously, a great deal of water has gone under the bridge during this period, electronically speaking. “Email machines” have largely replaced letters sent via the U.S. Postal Service. Apple’s iPod is a much fancier version of the Victor Victrola. TVs and computers are used more than radios for home entertainment, but radio wave propagation is still very important for cellular and wireless data transmission.
Nowadays, just about everything has a digital or electronics connection to it.
High-tech choices abound. If you are passonate about something – even better. Embrace it. Find a match. But ludites should not apply!