January 1998


Comdex on My Mind

by Robley Curtice

Was Fall ’97 Comdex that bad? Although it seemed more crowded to us, we still enjoyed it, but evidently not everybody did since we now we find out that both IBM and Lotus won’t be returning to the 1998 Comdex. The numbers involved in the conference boggle the old bean. Over 10,000 new products are introduced from among the 14,000 exhibitors (who each spend an average of $135,000 on all aspects of the exhibition); there are 3,600 members of the press (actually more than cover the Super Bowl); and if your feet hurt that’s because there is 2.2 million square feet of show space; and you had to fight for cabs, food and space with some 225,000 other attendees who crowded into every inch of hotel space available in Las Vegas. The added crunch this year meant that the shortage of cell-phone capacity felt last year was even more serious so it was met with the addition of three extra cells. That and Novell Inc. instituted a show-wide network that gave every attendee a temporary email address.

On the first night of the conference, a chill blustery Las Vegas night, we all were herded into the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts in the Aladdin Hotel-Casino to hear Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates hold forth. On the back of each chair was a tee shirt reading, “I love my PC,” which was Gates theme for the night. Casually dressed, as always, he looked like an innocuous electrical engineering student (just hip enough not to wear the pocket protector) who had just come over to take your sister out on a date, and who would completely pass the stern inspection of your parents. But, obviously, that’s not who is standing up there: up there is one of the richest and most powerful men in the world! His speech emphasized his love of technology and included bits by a Marine colonel, who uses technology in simulated battle situations, and a company that uses it to facilitate its tours of off-road Arizona. The high point of his presentation was a mock video of the Volkswagen commercial “Drivers Wanted,” with his co-worker Steve Ballmer, where a Sun machine was the butt of the joke.

We found the keynote of Cisco Systems, Inc. President & CEO John Chambers of interest since we have been reading Social-Thought-pundit Michael Phillips who contends that the influence of the New Technology has not really been observed in our society as yet. Chambers remarked that these changes are really either evident now or, he predicted, that they soon will be. He said that the Internet at its beginning was a network that was exclusively for high tech experts. But now it is a wide-ranging media effecting the whole world. "We are almost in a revolution, if you will."

Further, Chambers said, the Internet, which is truly one big network, is definitely changing the way we work. Those companies that understand how to apply this technology are getting ahead of the other companies and this technology perhaps will not only determine their growth but their survival. Just like the Industrial Revolution determined which countries had the best standard of living, the countries that use the Internet to add productivity to their government, to educate their children, and who encourage their companies to employ the technology will prosper in the future and those that don’t will be left out. And what is driving the Internet are two forces: technology and business applications. The Internet is the key productivity tool of the future radically transforming both recreation and education as well as business. "The Internet will change the way we live, work, play and learn," he finished. The Internet is a true revolution and changing all at a horrendous pace -- considering that it all began with Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist and researcher at CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research in Switzerland), inventing HTML, HTTP, and URL only four short, short years ago.

Comdex, which also has exploded in just three years, is certainly a product of the Internet too.

Robley Curtice (, a San Franciscan, is an early-retired teacher who haunts West Coast technical conferences searching for the 21st Century Killer App.

Copyright © 1998 by Robley Curtice. All Rights Reserved.

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