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==  COMDEX/Fall '94                                     By:  Harv Laser  ==
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COMDEX/Fall '94 (the world's largest computer convention, possibly the
world's largest convention of any kind) is going on this week in Las Vegas,
Nevada USA.  Appx.  200,000 people are attending.  The casinos are really
empty and the hotel rooms are all about double or triple their usual
nightly rates to make up for the computer trade's apparent allergy to
gambling. 

The main hall at the L.V.  Convention Center is dominated by the boring
stuff (IBM, PowerPC, Lotus, Borland, Apple, blah blah etc.  who cares) but
the interesting stuff is at the other venue, the Sands Hotel Convention
Center.  (The Interface Group, the outfit who puts on COMDEX bought the
Sands a couple years ago and spent megabucks building the huge convention
center behind it).

Even that wasn't big enough so they converted the underground parking
garage into a whole 'nother exhibit hall floor in the complex.   COMDEX
used to take place in six or 20 hotels all over town but now all of the
exhibits have been conglomerized into just the LV and Sands Convention
Centers.  Of course, probably every hotel in town has "private suites"
where various corporations wheel and deal and wine and dine their customers
and potential customers.

(Parenthetically, I've always wondered how Bill Gates, the uncrowned "King
of COMDEX [tm]" gets in and out of the show halls.  I've never seen him.. 
I suppose maybe they've built a series of secret underground tunnels to
spirit him in and out, or perhaps he drives a beat up Volvo alone into the
parking garage wearing a wig and fake beard ala Michael Jackson when he
wants to visit Disneyland and go unmolested by raving lunatic fans)

So today I schmoozed and schlepped my way thru the "Multimedia" floor of
the Sands part of the show, aisle after aisle of hundreds upon hundreds of
corporate booths, some huge, some a single table, some famous, some from
companies I never heard of. 

Some were doing "boffo biz" as they say in Hollywood, while at others, one
might see a couple of forlorn looking guys in suits standing there staring
off into space wondering, perhaps "why isn't my product attracting the
babes?"

Everything and anything Computer-related can be found at COMDEX, from huge
ridiculously expensive hardware arrays right down to silly little desk
items with smiley faces on them.

I did spot three companies who are known to the Amiga community at large
and thought I would comment on what they were showing...

NewTek

They're showing ONE product.  LightWave, for Amiga, PC, and SGI machines. 
Same price for all of them: $995.00.  Everyone here knows what LightWave is
so no need to explain it.  While there may have been other Amigas at
COMDEX, the one in NewTek's booth was the only one I saw today

(and its monitor was turned off). 

Huge screens and monitors were running tapes of the various tv shows where
LW has been used: Bab5, seaquest, etc.  etc.  Lee Stranahan was working at
one station doing demos but the crowd was nothing like I've seen at NewTek
booths at other shows like SIGGRAPH (where the crowds are 10x more
render-oriented than they are at COMDEX).

Elastic Reality (formerly ASDG) Inc.,

Had their Mac, PC and SGI machines and were showing ER, the morphing
package on each of them.  The booth was quite crowded and demos were being
performed by various employees such as Bruce "CygnusSoft" Dawson, Jeff
"JRAGraphics" Almasol, and others.  On the monitors was a looping demo tape
of various films, tv shows, and commercials that ER has been used to create
effects for.  It was quite crowded and drawing a lot of attention.  Keith
"TRexx Professional" Williams has departed the company for parts unknown :(
and big bossman Perry Kivolowitz had left Vegas yesterday, so I missed
yakking with him.

Apparently ER Inc.  has been doing a lot of hiring lately evidenced by all
the new faces I saw working their booth.  They have overgrown their current
offices and are looking for a new one, a sign of success.  No Amigas in
their booth, though :( but Rick Unland was :)

(Rick was formerly with Commodore and for a while was involved with the
CDTV project under Gail Wellington's lead..  he's also worked for any
number of other Amiga products companies and is a good guy).

Play Inc.

This is the company you may or may not have heard about which is a merger
between a bunch of ex-NewTek folks (engineers and p/r people) and Digital
Creations, and Progressive Image Technology, the hardware outfit who made
all of DC's stuff like DCTV, SuperGens, etc.  This is Play's first trade
show booth, and they are showing their first product.  It's a PC product. 
It's called "Snappy". 

"What the hell is that!?" you ask as you scratch your head.  Well I'll tell
you.  It's a digitizer.  A FrameGrabber.  It plugs into the PC parallel
port, runs on a 9-volt battery, grabs any video source in 1/60th of a
second in 1500x1125 24-bit color resolution (yes, that res is correct) and
can save out to disk in the form of BMP, PCX, TIFF, GIF and JPEG formats,
in 1500x1125, 640x480, or 320x240 sizes.  It's a tiny unit, about the size
of a pack of cigarettes, it's portable, and they're bundling with it
special versions of Fauve Matisse and Gryphon Morph.  The whole thing
retails for $199.95 and it'll be in stores in late December this year.

Kiki Stockhammer, famous for years in the Amiga community for sitting on a
chair wearing a headset microphone and demoing the Toaster for hours on
end, is now sitting on a chair, wearing a headset microphone, demoing
Snappy for hours on end.  :).  Mark "the man in black" Randall was yakking
it up with booth visitors.  Laura "I was the NewTek girl before Kiki"
Longfellow was working the reception desk

(I was surprised to see her working for Play Inc.  for no particular
reason, but was pleased too, and she was looking VERY fine ;)

If I had a 386 or better PC with a buncha RAM and disk on it I would get a
Snappy.  It's a slick little device and it really produces beautiful, very
hi-res, very NON-jaggie results in the blink of an eye.  It is, if you
will, a 1994 DigiView/DCTV for PeeCees.  Comparisons are painfully obvious,
especially when viewed in the perspective that Play Inc.  is a combination
of former NewTek people andcurrent Digital Creations people.  But Snappy is
a slicker product than either of those were, and it contains Play's first
piece of custom silicon which Mark was proudly showing off like a rare coin
in a box.  Other Random Thoughts on COMDEX in no particular order...

-Mark Randall handed me what is the first "3D" business card I've ever
seen...  open the card and the die-cut word "P L A Y" pops up from inside.
(Do these people know how to spend money or what!)

-I had read a newsburp on Clarinet a couple months ago about how COMDEX had
"outlawed" Adult-oriented software at their shows.  Apparently they changed
their minds and then some.  The Multimedia hall had at least ten different
vendors (maybe more, I didn't stop to count) who were selling "adult" (or
"porno" if you prefer) CD ROM software of every description.  ALL of these
booths were crowded.  You open the COMDEX program guide (a FAT book that
weighs 3 lbs) and it tells you that COMDEX is not a selling show.  It is a
trade show for dealers, distributors, the press, mfr's reps, etc.  etc.
EVERY one of the CD ROM booths was selling product like mad.  And while
Adult CD ROMs have typically been GIF files, this is the first time I've
seen them in Kodak PhotoCD format, so of course I bought one to take home
for further inspection ;)

-These shows are expensive!

Just to walk into the exhibit halls costs $75.  But hardly anyone pays $75
to get in because practically every booth exhibitor hands out free entry
passes to their customers.  I got in on a free pass courtesy of IBM :)

How about $1.75 for a can of coke and $3.50 for a hot dog, everywhere
inside the show at all the food stops.  This is typical for large trade
shows but it's still outrageous. 

-I sat in on a couple demo sessions at some booths (mainly to rest my back
and feet after having lugged around 20 lbs.  of brochures and magazines and
other junk in a bag like everyone else) and got some free software which is
of course Windows stuff that I can't use but what the hell, someone will
want it.  One of the neatest things I saw was, believe it or not, a new
Kid-oriented CD ROM being published by the cable tv Discovery Channel.
This thing was absolutely delightful, filled with humor, surprises, and
excellent graphics and I was impressed.  There are some people out there
who know how to make quality CD ROM stuff with imagination.

-Getcher Free Magazines Here

Picked up a number of free copies of various rags, and also signed up for a
number of free subscriptions.  When you go to these huge trade shows there
are invariably any number of magazine publishers who will give you a one
year free sub just for filling out a form and checking a million little
boxes (like telling them how many billions of dollars worth of computer
stuff you're responsible for buying each year).  So I picked up a free
one-year sub to New Media and Morph's Outpost, and a couple others.
Morph's publisher has a brand new magazine out called "Blaster" and they
were handing out tons of free copies of the first issue.  This rag is a bit
hard to describe but I guess they're aiming it at the older skateboard set
who is into anything with the prefix "Cyber-" on it, and who appreciate the
finer points of Beavis & Butthead's subtle humor and who know what a modem
is.  I sat down and had a couple $1.75 cokes and read through it and it's a
pretty decent little rag so look for it on newsstands soon if not now.  Ya
might enjoy it, if the wild typesetting and graphics doesn't give you a
permanent migraine.

Well I could ramble on more but that's enough.  I'll be back in Vegas in
January for CES (The Consumer Electronics show) which I find to be
generally a lot more entertaining than COMDEX, and at which there is a much
better chance of actually seeing more than one Amiga in a two million
square foot exhibit hall.

(feel free to stick this posting in your user-group newsletter, online
magazine, bathroom wall, bird cage, or whatever..  just keep my name on it
which your parakeet can use as a target.

[Amiga Report officially denies association with bathroom walls and bird
cages, but we know he's kidding.  -JC]