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Fall '97 COMDEX Report

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Noesis Creation Spotlighted @COMDEX!


Brian L. Crosthwaite

Noesis Creation in the Spotlight

Ok, Noesis Creation was not Spotlighted. But, I did send several emails and left the Browsers set at Noesis Creation. Who knows, someone may have found a treasure. I managed to get a couple of emails and a vmail to John. I had to DL an MPEG player for the Amiga to view it (as of yet, not viewed) for I have no idea where my old MPEG player went. At every giveaway I slipped a Noesis Creation business card into the bowl. In the commodore 8-bit tradition, I wore Quantumlink The Commodore Connection teeshirts both days!

So, how did Noesis Creation make it there anyway? Well, my wife Mia is the Marketing Manager at Cougar Mountain Software and they had a booth at the Sans Expo and Convention Center.

I had long ago worked at a publishing company that published commodore specific magazines. We had researched the possibility of having a booth there. They started at $5000. This was in '93 or '94. It would have been cool, because we were doing it just to have a commodore community member there after the demise of so many commodore entities. But it was too much capital outlay. After I retired, Mia got to go and she just hated it. Between being pregnant with Octavia, the standing around, and the long waits in line with all the smoke, she had one of the most miserable times of her life. This year was different. I was able to attend and Mia was feeling fine (until she caught a cold at the end).

I went to the Sans to get registered (actually just check in and pickup my pass) and the lady said I had to go to the Hilton. When I got to the Hilton they said I had to go to the Sans. When I told them I had just come from there, they felt for me and arranged to have a pass made up for me. I filled out the new paperwork that was stamped COMDEX rather than Cougar Mountain, so I put in Noesis Creation and it's address. So rather than my home address and a Cougar Mountain guest, I got to go as a full fledged Noesis Creation person. Waycool!

It's Show Time!

COMDEX had many things. Much of which had little innovation. Most of it was old hat, after all, the computer has had only subtle changes, not significant ones, in the last 20 years or so -- we don't use brain engrams for processing and memory is still in stacks. There were software upgrades and new releases. There were rehashed ideas being presented as new ones. But the thing to remember here is that this is a trade show and not a What's New thing (that's what we have Popular Science for).

However, the show was fun, none the less. And as you would have guessed, I sought out NewTek first. And yes, they had an Amiga there!

The Amiga appeared to be dormant. I watched the demo video with what seemed like hundreds of stunning video effects playing out before my eyes. Many I had seen on tv -- the Dodge commercial where the red cars morph into other red cars and trucks as they float through what appear to be water falls, the mini M & Ms commercial with the color spattered bikers, (possibly) a Saturday morning computer animation, and the 007 logo from the last Pierce Brosan, James Bond movie. I hadn't noticed the lack of a VCR.

I watched the demo of Lightwave 5.5 on a 300 Mhz PC (I believe it was under Windows 95). In a couple of minutes time, the person at the keyboard had created an arm that looked and acted like an arm. Ok, he was not an artist, but even so, the cone he made moved the full range with all the apparent physical limitations, complete with bulging muscles. He had produced this in a very short amount of time, including the time to show us what would happen if the arm was moved the wrong way. The math was there, but it extended into itself. So he fixed that and it was still a very fast process. He made stick figures that looked and moved like humans, replicated them and showed them participating in the NewTek Teichi class. It was amazing.

The software comes with 999 licenses so you can use computers that are networked to help one main computer to render late at night when everyone has gone home. This allows computers to be used during off hours when the machines would not normally be used anyway, helping to speed up a project.

After the demo, I had to meet Mia, so I didn't get a chance to ask any questions. I did plan to go back as I was more into the Toaster and the Amiga.

I managed to get back to NewTek later in the day. I noticed that the once enthusiastic demo doer was rather frazzled at that point. I can't blame him, I was tired too. I asked one of the other guys there (I didn't get any names as by then I was in a daze) about the Toaster and he started messing with the Amiga. He said he'd be glad to answer any questions I may have had as he opened the main screen -- that was when I realized that the Amiga was running all the demo videos -- there was no VCR!

He showed me a rendered flyby and an actual flyby of a jet and asked me which one was real. I could not tell, and he had to look at the files name to see which was which. It was very impressive.

There was to be a demo of the NewTek Video Toaster at 10:30 the next morning. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to get back. I had yet to get over to the Hilton. It takes hours to do things there. Needless to say, I was bummin'.

Toga! Toga! Toga!

That night I got to go to the Computer Shopper "Unleash the Monster of all COMDEX parties" over at the Hard Rock Hotel. There were lots of free food and drink. (You know I had always wanted to go to a host bar affair [where all the drinks are free] back in my wild and unruly daze, somehow it just doesn't seem fair that I should finally get to go to one long after I had lost the taste for alcohol.)

The smoke was unbearable, but it cleared out a bit at the start of the show. After the publisher made an entrance in a gorilla suite (pretty much the COMDEX- as- a- whole theme) terrorizing everyone (also a COMDEX theme) and a boring, but short speech by two top ZD people (one the publisher, the other I don't know), Sinbad came out and talked computers and COMDEX!

Now, I have always had a great deal of respect for the man, but I was in awe of his knowledge of computers. He told his story of being online in '83 at 300 baud on his TRS80 when no one was out there (he is now a Mac man). He delivered jabs at computer manufacturers and sellers alike as only Sinbad could. Pointing out the obvious,

"If it needs a cable -- PUT IT IN THE BOX!"
And advice on where not to go,
" know you're in trouble when you say to the guy 'I need a null modem cable' and he gives you that look and repeats what you said, 'Null modem cable -- null .. modem .. cable -- null ... modem ... cable...'"
Needless to say I busted a gut! The man knows his computers and just like the rest of us, he has had his share of computer world frustrations.

"Y'all gotta lie at COMDEX. You can't just say 'Oh yeah, it crashes. There it goes now! Sure it crashes, everybody's crashes -- we're just cheaper!'"
Sinbad asked the audience to ask questions and he gave some great answers. If I had not been so tired I might have asked him about the Amiga.

One guy sorta tried to heckle him, but he laid into that guy like a Comedic Neutron Bomb! In fact, he let all the companies that made their presence known to him have it in one way or another. All in fun, of course.

It was late for us, and the smoke (both of us being ex-smokers, not to mention the fact there was no air in the place) had pretty much killed any ideas of staying longer, so we missed Diana Ross and desert.

COMDEX -- The Otherside of Night

The new stuff was all mostly rehashing of old stuff -- but this had little effect on the excitement level of it all. There were mostly bigger and better (memory hungry) programs out there for 95 and NT. Apple was not there. (Ok Steve, now move the aim from your companies foot to it's head!)

There was a PowerMac clone or two at the Motorola area (I call them areas because they are just too darn big to call a booth). I breezed through as time was flying and there was just too much to see at the Hilton in only a few hours and I had yet to find Gateway 2000.

I had blown through Ziff Davis and CMP (the latter being one of my favorite publishers) on the way to and from Motorola. I did manage to get an issue of inter@ctive and a sub card.

It was getting late when I finally found the Gateway 2000 area. I saw their version of WebTV, in fact I played with it a little (you have too, if you miss your flight you will never, on your deathbed, say, "I missed my flight," but you will say, "I was at the Gateway 2000 booth and I didn't even play with one of their new machines!"

It was nice too: Large (must have been 27") screen; remote control with a track ball... hummm this sounds kinda like a rehashed idea...I know, has anyone ever heard of a thing called the CDTV?!?!?? Any who, it was nice none the less. And it has a presently supported user OS, mainly Winders 95.

Gateway 2000 had a CD with their Website on it along with part of Yahoo!. I looked up Noesis Creation and it had my September Yahoo! listing on it! I didn't have time to look up the WebBBS. It is kinda cool knowing they were handing out these CDs with Noesis Creation' listing on it.

So Much To See, So Little Time...

There were lots of things I wanted to see that I either didn't find or didn't have the time to.

Star Micronics was there as well as Nu-Kote. Some crossplatform manufactures if ever there were any. I saw flash memory (wish I'd had some extra cash to get a Special COMDEX show price!), ALSOP had more than just disk boxes; they had mouse pads; cleaners; you name it, one company had one of the better modular stacking data storage units around. I got a free frisbee, I saw geeks playing with laser pointers, I saw people from around the world, lots of booths had women dressed as cheerleaders (I suppose they were this year's COMDEX girls), there were computers and keyboards submerged in water while running, and monitors stacked to the sky with one image across all of them.

...Maybe Next Year

Places I missed: Geek Girl Spy Food, Zilog, IBM (I did see their stage with the most impressive monitors- stacked- to- the- sky display that I'd ever seen), Microsoft (believe it or not!), the Toaster demo, to name a few. This thing was so big I walked for hours and missed large areas of the exhibit halls -- I decided to turn a corner and forgot I had turned one before and found I was not going the direction I thought I was. It was just enormous.

Next year I plan to stay longer. I will plan my strategy the first day and then hit the things I want to see. I had DLed the PDF files and they were not linked and used no fonts so searching was useless, print outs were a bear and locating anything was next to impossible. It is easier to get a number and just go to find it on the floor than to go through this hassle.

All in all it was a pretty good show. I would have loved going about 12 or 15 years ago, back when the microcomputer industry was new and fresh and everything was truly the latest and the greatest. Until next year -- keep those Computers of Long Ago(TM) humming!

.....end of line.

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Just an update: Fall '98 COMDEX is happening as I write this. I was not able to attend this year. There were too many variables to work out and nothing came together. Maybe next year I will try and plan earlier. I do have my badge....

Just another update: I was unable to attend the Fall '99 COMDEX. Once again, far too many variables to work out and nothing came together.

Yet another update: Fall 2000 COMDEX came and went. I had my badge....

2001 update: Fall 2001 COMDEX also came and went. I did get my badge. Someday I hope to go, but the appeal is almost totally lost. Perhaps if I'm in the area I'll stop in -- I'm sure I'll love it, but I'm not going to make any special (attempts at) plans to go any time soon.

2002 update: Fall 2002 COMDEX Badge? yes. Went? no.

2003 update: Fall 2003 COMDEX ditto

Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Noesis Creation. All Rights Reserved.