I AM CEDIA: Michael Heiss, Part One

Ed Wenck | Oct 27, 2020



What got you interested in this business in the first place? How did you fall into this thing, Mike?

Michael Heiss:

It started in High School – I was on the AV Squad. Today it would be the Nerd Herd.

When I got out of college of grad school, one of the fellows in our program was getting married. He went down to Brazil for the wedding, to his then new bride. He said, "Hey, Mike, you want to take over for me at my gig?"

That was for a company called Computer Television, which was the inventor of in-room hotel movies. At that point, pay TV was in its infancy. We hardwired 15 Hilton hotels, including the Conrad Hilton, now the Chicago Hilton, which was then the largest hotel in the world. We ran RG 59 coax to every one of the 3,281 rooms in that hotel. Thankfully, I didn't do the installation, but the planning helped me learn to make sure that the union installers didn't drill through the marble floors or the woodwork. That’s served me well.

In order to do the other part of that job, I did film to tape transfers. I worked in conjunction with one of the local production houses in New York and supervised the film transfers. Then they offered me a job and said, "Hey, you know this, you want to help us start a home video company?"

After my time there, a friend of mine from college offered me a job in the advertising and promotion department of NBC. Hopefully there'll be an Expo next year and we'll have a couple of drinks and I'll tell you the stories I can’t tell you here.


You joined Harman in 1988. CEDIA essentially begins with the first show in Florida in 1989. You were there at the beginning, right?

Michael Heiss:

Well, actually, before that, the first formative meeting was at the old Summer CES (Consumer Electronics Show). We met in a steamy humid Chicago June afternoon, after the show.

The next meeting was at the Sahara in Las Vegas. We had many more people. The biggest thing about that meeting was to decide what the heck to call the damn thing. So we spent half a day until the late John Sternberg, who was a great mediator for this said, "Stop it. Here's what we're going to call it: Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, CEDIA.”  

Amelia Island was the first CEDIA Expo. It was mostly table-tops.

Find part two of our chat with Mr. Heiss here.