It seems an age ago that I worked for PC Magazine in its freshly relaunched finery -- and indeed, nearly ten years have passed since I joined up. Since then, a massively improbable chain of events has seen the magazine disappear to rivals VNU and get its guts ripped out, but let's not dwell on that - nor the enormous lawsuits brewing in New York.
It was at PC Magazine that I made my first trip to Comdex, and we did things in style in those days. Around twenty people, editorial and sales, flew over to Las Vegas -- first class, if you can believe that -- and spent five days working the floors, parties, bars and out-of-Strip danger zones. Comdex was at the height of its pomp: the town was overflowing with suits, longhairs and elephantine dealers from Duluth.
At first, I didn't know what was more impressive -- mile after mile of people with new things to talk about, or the fleshpots of Vegas. Older Comdex hands taught me various survival tricks (always stash a couple of bottles of booze in your room; there's no room service, as they want you to go down to the gambling floor) and filled me full of tall tales (the time Comdex went to Atlantic City, and the mob burned down the conference centre as a warning never to leave Vegas again).
It was an experience of truly epic proportions.
And now it's Comdex time again. I don't know anyone who's gone over, and reports from Vegas show I'm not alone. The Web has put paid to Comdex's must-visit status, and the economy's got rid of the freedom to go along for the craic. That's a real shame. You just can't pretend to be Hunter S. Thompson at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham -- and I should know.