The pace at this year’s National Show is brisk, with our usual trade-show challenge of digesting both technology discussions and press releases complicated by the buzz factor of C-level execs, noise from the programmers and too many options for gatherings outside the Georgia World Congress Center. The brisk nature of activity on the show floor reflects well on the NCTA organizers, their choice of Atlanta as a backup site to New Orleans and, of course, the industry itself. On that last point, the NCTA’s chief cut through the buzz to the bottom line. "It’s about numbers," said President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow. "It’s not just declines in basic sub losses, but they’re adding." Those additions, of course, are not just an apparent turnaround in basic video, but the growth in telephony and the potential to gain from what McSlarrow said was the industry’s "connecting the technology dots." Along with the technology vendors and demos on the show floor, those so inclined could see additional "dot connecting" in numerous sessions, including those organized by GCI Cable and Entertainment CTO Dan Pike in his role as chairman of the event’s Technical Program Subcommittee. As usual, Pike introduced his own panel with a short essay laden with historical analogies. In this case, some of the achievements of former Atlanta Governor William B. Hartsfield served to illustrate the topic of managing networks for large-scale delivery. Hartfield, for example, who served as Mayor from 1937 to 1941 and then again from 1942 to 1962, is credited with developing the Atlanta airport into the national aviation center that it has now become. Another attribute of his long tenure is overlapping phases of disparate technologies, such as steam-powered river transport and paradigm-shifting cable news transmission. "The (Atlanta to Columbus) steam engine lasted up until two years after CNN went up," he said. All of which stands as a fair analog to the cable industry. To wit: the sometimes awkward coexistence of legacy, proprietary and analog equipment with forward-leaning, open and digital technologies that are turning cable networks into very busy hubs of switched traffic, not unlike that of the hyper-busy Hartsfield-Jackson airport. For more on the technical sessions (such as the one that focused on switched technologies photographed above) see next week’s Pipeline. – Jonathan Tombes

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