Special Report – COMDEX ’95

Comdex,billed as the largest computer show in the world. It didn’t
take me long to see why! The Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) has to be about the size of two football fields. It also encompassed the convention centers at the Sands and Hilton hotels, which I never got to see. The reason being; I didn’t plan this trip in advance, I just happened to be passing through as part of my real job as a truck driver and the price of admission, (as I heard it) was well beyond my ability or desire to pay. One figure I heard bandied about was in the $650 range for a one week pass (5 days). Whether this was true or not, I can’t say. Once I heard that number, I vomited on my shoes and didn’t inquire any further. However, I did want to see what all the hype was about, concerning COMDEX.

Unable to get in touch with our friendly editor here at My Mac, so he could Fed Ex me a press pass in exchange for an on the scene report, I was left to improvise.

Soooo, what does a truck driver do when he’s in Vegas with a couple days to kill, and wants to attend the big event but can’t afford it? Take his loaded dice to the craps table and hope they don’t notice? Approach a rich looking couple outside the Hilton and ask them to give me the price of admission to the big event? How about putting on some of my dirty work clothes, smearing mud on my face and hair, then stand on the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Blvds with a cardboard sign that reads ” I’m not homeless but sure would like a pass to COMDEX”?

I’m sure any of the above would have worked eventually, but my time was limited, and I didn’t want to bail myself out of jail – so I did the next best thing!

Some of you may remember me having mentioned my brother in my article, “CD ROM Today and the Good Coasters” in issue #7 of My Mac. His name is Lloyd, and it just so happens that he works for a computer company back in Massachusetts.One of his jobs is to attend these trade shows and make sure all the hardware and software his company is show casing is working the way it’s suppose to.

I arrived in Vegas on the afternoon of Nov. 15th ,which was a Wednesday. I delivered my load of Isuzu Rodeos’ to the dealership, and parked my truck at the King 8 truck stop, just across the freeway from the Tropicana Hotel, where Lloyd was camping out while he worked at the Expo.

We met in the lobby and went to his room so I could get cleaned up. He informed me that I picked a good day to show up as that was the evening that his company was having their big party in the banquet room of the hotel. Turns out that I missed Microsofts’ party the night before. Damn! I really wanted to here what Bill Gates had to say. (Not!!!)

All Lloyd had to do was procure an invitation for me to get into this shindig. That took all of 2 minutes, once we were seated at the bar in the lobby having pre-party cocktails. The party started at 6:00PM. Free food, open bar and live entertainment. It doesn’t get any better than this. A good time was had by all. Lloyd tells me that 1200 people were invited and 2500 showed up. Lloyd was able to borrow a COMDEX pass for me to wear, from a co-worker who did not have to work on Thursday, so I was able to roam freely about the LVCC, but my name had changed to Carrie Ann SomthingOrOther. A minor detail. I hung the pass around my neck and went to work with my brother.

I left Lloyd at 10:00AM when the exhibits opened and commenced my day long stroll through COMDEX 95. My first stop was the PowerPC exhibit. I think the people at Intel (makers of the Pentium chip) must have bribed someone at the LVCC to inform the people at Apple, IBM and Motorola (makers of the PowerPC chip) that there was no room inside the convention center for a PowerPC exhibit. Did this deter the PowerPC crew? No way, they just brought there own building and set it up outside in the parking lot. It was one of those huge inflatable buildings. After checking for leaks in their blowup building I went inside and witnessed a great laser graphics display while waiting for the demonstration to begin. After watching grown men and women jumping out of their seats and waving their arms foolishly trying to catch the few PowerPC T-shirts that the stage girls were tossing into the crowd, we were given a demonstration which was projected onto a giant movie screen. The screen showed two monitors, one was a computer running the Pentium chip and the other had the PowerPC chip, both were operating at 130mhz. The girl started both computers at the same time, and had them do some complicated PhotoShop filtering, shading, and rendering. Guess which one finished first? Duh! Actually, the PowerPC finished about 30 seconds before the Pentium. Witnessing this marvelous display of technology didn’t change my life any, but it was fun just the same! As I was leaving, I apologized to the elderly lady sitting next to me for giving her a bloody nose and stepping on her foot while I was trying to reach for that T-shirt. I would have caught it too, if the old gal hadn’t been in my way!

Walking back into the LVCC, there was a tiny stage just inside the door, upon which, was a girl holding the PowerPC logo between both her hands, in a pose somewhat like Arnold Schwarzenegger gets into when he does his “pump you up” routine. Only this girl didn’t look real, she looked like a mannequin! She was a mime I had seen earlier, so I was watching this fellow, who was looking at her. As he kept getting closer and closer to her she jumped in his direction and screamed “Boo!” That poor guy stumbled backwards till he tripped, falling flat on his rump! Before he hit the floor, the mime on the stage was back to her perfectly still pose. The guy on the floor kept repeating, “I had no idea she was real!!”. I wonder if those mime’s carry heart attack liability insurance?

The first thing one does upon entering COMDEX is pick up a free IBM suitcase. It’s a cardboard box with a handle and is 12″X 18″X 4″ and has an 11″ slot in the side of it to slip in all your pamphlets, magazines, floppy disks, ink pens, buttons, bumper stickers, mail order catalogs and other paraphernalia someone is sticking in your face every 30 seconds or so. Some people were carrying 2 and 3 of these IBM suitcases. I guess those were the people who couldn’t say “no” to a free handout. I mainly limited myself to Apple related paraphernalia, and definitely drew the line when a guy asked me if I wanted a free copy of Computer Shopper. I said, “No thank you”, thinking, “I’d have to go get my truck to lug that thing around.”

I still haven’t opened my IBM suitcase to see what kind of goodies I stuffed in there. I’ll save that till after the holiday’s when I might have time to read through it all. Gee! I hope I didn’t put any uneaten pizza in there, I might open it up and find I have a month’s supply of penicillin also.

I learned that if I was ever in the market for a removable storage drive, I will get the SyQuest EZ135 instead of the Iomega Zip Drive. It’s uglier and bigger than the Zip Drive but I saw it copy 1.2MB of data from a floppy to it’s 135MB cartridge about twice as fast as the Zip, just like it says in their advertisements. Seeing is believing.

I had a question to ask the people at Supra Corp. about my SupraFax Modem 288 so I meandered over to their booth and waited for one of the four exhibitors to approach me and offer assistance. I waited for about 2 minutes but I guess I didn’t look important enough or whatever it was the 4 of them were B/S ing about was more important than helping a customer. You all know the feeling you get when your standing at a counter at your local mall and the 2 salespeople behind it see you standing there but continue on with their conversation about uncle Harry’s gall bladder operation. I turned and walked away, remembering Macworlds article on modems and how they listed Supra Corp’s. technical help as “unacceptable”. Another bullseye for Macworld as far as I’m concerned.

I can’t describe everything I saw at the Expo, but all you have to do is imagine the largest computer store you have ever been into, and then multiply that by 10,000 or so and you come up with COMDEX. (Minus a few bells and whistles), like a dozen or so cars spread around, to be given away. Some new, some older classics, some with laptop computers built in, where the headlights should be! (Digital Equip. Corp).

I found one amazing thing at COMDEX that I’ll bet nobody but me will ever write about, so keep reading, cause this is an exclusive My Mac report!

Microsoft had the largest exhibit there. (Is anyone surprised!) IBMs was big, and so was Digitals. AT&Ts was futuristic and Sony’s was a blast. (A short 3D movie, digitally enhanced. We even got to wear those cardboard and cellophane glasses that makes everyone look like a goof ball.) Of course the one I felt most comfortable at (and spent most of my time) was Apple Computer. It was respectable in size. (Almost as big as Cupertino, Ca. I would guess.)

As I was trying to talk one of the girls into giving me that Powerbook 190 that kept crashing while I was trying to test drive it, I started thinking about my feet. The more I thought about them,the more I thought I might be on to something! I gave that Apple girl one last chance to be rid of that bothersome Powerbook, but she wouldn’t give it to me, so I left in search of what I thought would be a front page discovery.

I walked around all the larger exhibits, as well as some of the smaller ones, and by golly my feet where trying to tell me something! The carpet! It’s a different thickness in each of the exhibits! Are these companies trying to lure people into there exhibits with the plushiness of their floor coverings?!? Of course they are, why else would it be a different thickness in each exhibit? After closer scrutiny, I was able to make an educated and informed analysis of which company had not only the thickest, but the most comfortable carpet to walk on, thus enticing more people to visit their exhibit. This, of course, enticed them to stay longer, and maybe order 5000 more of the product they were looking at! Very good strategy, don’t you think?

Okay, drum roll if you will: I will now release my dramatic findings.

Most of the smaller exhibits had much too thin padding under their carpets. Some didn’t have any padding whatsoever, which led me to start a campaign to banish these companies from all future expos.!

My Top 5 List

5) Microsoft- You people do everything full bore. You must have been thinking that everyone was going to be barefootin’ around your exhibit. Had we all been barefoot, you would be #1. But do you know how difficult it it is to walk on 2 inches of carpet padding in shoes, let alone high heels? Bet the number of your female visitors were way down.

4)Sony- Good try! It wasn’t to bad, unless you walked from Microsofts exhibit onto yours. In which case yours felt like a cement floor. Your 3/4 inch pad was a little shy. Next year don’t park your exhibit right next to Bills!

3) Digital- You guys may have tide for first, because I think your inches were right where they had to be to begin with. What messed that up was the three automobiles you put on top of the carpet, which had a sinking effect on the padding. Officially, you ended up with 7/8 inch. Just a tad shy.(Buy the way, thanks for inviting me to your party Wednesday.) 😉

2) IBM- Real close. You knew what to shoot for. I’m sure you had every intention of winning this prestigious award. You always had a crowd of people at your exhibit, which tells you how close to the best you were. Let me give you a piece of advise for next year? When calculating the thickness of you carpet, use a machine with a PowerPC chip installed instead of that bumbling Pentium that can’t add. Your 1-1/16 inch pad was 1/16 inch shy of the perfect comfort carpet.

1) Apple- At 1-1/8 inch in padding, You people in Cupertino may not be #1 in market share but you sure know how to lay a rug. No wonder I spent most of my time at you exhibit. Your not only user friendly, your feet friendly as well!

There you have it folks; My first annual Carpet Award!


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