The 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show, known as CES, was a blow-out success with more than 140,000 attendees, according to preliminary figures released tonight.

The 140,000-figure is 10 percent above the 126,000 attendees for the January 2010 show. CES is the biggest technology trade show in the world. It’s a great barometer for the health of the $900 billion-plus tech economy, and it offers the best glimpse into the future of tech gadgets and services coming in the new year.

With the bigger crowd came logistical woes. Everybody complained about how it was harder to get around the show. The wireless networks went down. At my hotel, the wireless never worked and I had to rely on slow 3G connections. Lucky bastards like Nick Wingfield, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, had the new 4G network access at speeds of 18 megabits a second. During keynote speeches, I could barely load photos, let alone videos. That experience certainly makes me want to get 4G, which was one of the prevailing uber technologies of the Las Vegas show.

More than 2,700 technologies showed off their wares to visitors, including more than 30,000 international attendees. The show concluded today after preliminary events that started as early as Tuesday.

Past shows reflected the depth of the recession. In 2009, attendance was 113,085. In 2008, it was 141,150. The biggest show of the past five years was 2006, which saw 152,203 attendees. The consequence of the success this year was clear on the personal level. It took a long time to leave the convention center when the day was over. The cab lines were long. The press conferences were often standing-room only. It was tough to navigate the aisles. By late Saturday, however, it was a ghost town.

Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the show, said that the gathering featured more news and social media buzz than any other show in history. The show tracked 158,000 CES-related tweets since Monday. CEA will conduct an independent audit of the attendance and final figures will be available this spring.

More than 80 tablet computers debuted at the show. Besides 4G, other big themes included connected TVs, smart appliances and electric vehicles. Among the news makers were Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Verizon’s Ivan Seidenberg, Audi’s Rupert Stadler, Samsung’s Boo-Keun Yoon, Ford’s Alan Mulally, Netflix’s Reed Hastings, Cisco’s John Chambers, Xerox’s Ursula Burns and GE’s Jeffrey Immelt.

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