Chapter 10

Underground Guide to Macworld Expo


The greatest show on earth isn’t the circus, it’s Macworld Expo. Here’s an underground guide to doing it right.

Bob: Mike’s never been to a Macworld Expo before this year (and this manuscript is due before he can leave for the party, oh sorry, I mean show), so I’m going to have to handle this chapter alone. (Mike’s afraid he’ll run into someone he’s said something awful about-and there are many. I say he’s a wimp. I write unflattering reviews all the time and have only been assaulted at Macworld Expo once. So far.)

Mike: Nah, I don’t go to the Macworld Expos for three reasons:

    1. I don’t like to fly.
    2. I don’t usually have anything to sell.
    3. I’m usually too busy.

I am rather selfish about my privacy, though, and that’s another reason why I don’t go. It keeps the witnesses guessing.

This year I went to Macworld/Boston in August because I had a book to plug, wasn’t too busy, and decided it was about time to check-in on my flying phobia. It wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be and, as I expected, I pissed off a lot of people with what I said in the conference session I moderated. (I’ll bet that not one of the people I pissed off will be reading this, though.)

The Greatest Show on Earth

Bob: Macworld Expo is a trade show, but it’s more than a trade show. Macworld Expo is a conference, but it’s more than a conference. If you’re a Mac fan, Macworld Expo is without question the greatest show on earth.

Mike: Geez, what was it that P.T. Barnum said? Something about there being a sucker born every minute…

Bob: Gimmee a break! If you like your Mac even a little, you’ll love Macworld Expo. What’s not to like? There are hundreds of exhibitors displaying their latest wares-hardware, software, peripherals, scanners, printers, you-name-it-for you to see and touch. There’s a show floor bigger than several football fields that will dazzle and delight you. And there’s a star-studded conference program to entertain and educate you.

Mike: What’s not to like? I’ll tell you what’s not to like. Tens of thousands of people squished together like raw fish on a slab. In Boston. In August. Yeech. Everybody stay home.

Bob: Last year, I walked the two blocks from my hotel to the convention center with an obvious first-time attendee. We chatted a little, but nothing prepared me for his reaction when he got his first glimpse of the show floor. He gasped, then broke into a huge smile and said, "Oh my God." That about sums it up.

Mike: Hey now, that just about sums up the reaction to your one-hand typing line too, Bob.

Bob: Don’t start! The one-handed typing line isn’t for a few chapters…

How Not to Get Burned

Not all vendors are dishonest, but some are. There are always a few rotten apples (pun intended), so don’t believe everything you hear and look carefully at everything you see. I once saw a demo where the vendor led the audience to believe two Macs were connected by modem. Both Macs were under skirted tables and hidden from view. When I crawled under the table I discovered that there were no modems to be found. Rather, a high-speed Ethernet network had been set up to connect the two machines. In another demo, I thought a product was running extremely fast considering it was being run on a relatively slow IIcx. I asked the salesperson if there was an accelerator inside. "No way," he said, "our program is optimized for speed and runs blindingly fast, even on a lowly IIcx." I popped the top off the IIcx and what do you think I found? A very fast accelerator. The salesperson acted dumbfounded, "I don’t know where that came from!" Yeah, sure. The moral of the story is don’t believe everything you’re told. Look under the tables and look under the hood. Although most vendors are honest, some aren’t. As Mike likes to say, "follow the wires." Forewarned is forearmed.

Mike: Yeah, follow the wires. It’s the same concept we all learned during the Watergate fiasco when Woodward and Bernstein were told by their sources, again and again, "Follow the money."

Bob: Another tip: use your credit card, not cash. Imagine this: you buy a hard disk at the show from a company you’ve never heard of (let’s call them "Harry’s Hard Disks"). It’s a great deal and everything looks perfectly kosher. You’re elated. But when you get home, you discover that the drive is defective and the formatting software, manual, and cable you were promised are not in the box. You call the number on the invoice only to hear, "The number you have reached has been disconnected."

There are two lessons to be learned here. First, if you paid cash you’d be S.O.L, but if you paid by credit card, you’d probably be home free. Just write to (don’t rely on only a phone call, they’re not technically official) the credit card company and explain your experience with Harry’s Hard Disks-they will remove the charge from your bill and send a kneecap-buster out looking for Harry. The second lesson is to inspect your purchases carefully before leaving the booth. (This is especially important on the last day of the show.) There’s nothing more annoying than getting your new software home only to find that the box doesn’t contain any disks!


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