The Luncher in Las Vegas

The Luncher had sipped his last Mexican lager and, like a character in a Frenchman's novel, the aroma of lime quadrant nested in beard transported him back through the peculiar blend of hi-tech and brashness that embodies Comdex week in Las Vegas.Well, there had certainly been plenty to note.

The Luncher had sipped his last Mexican lager and, like a character in a Frenchman's novel, the aroma of lime quadrant nested in beard transported him back through the peculiar blend of hi-tech and brashness that embodies Comdex week in Las Vegas.

Well, there had certainly been plenty to note. While callow youths had wandered starry-eyed from stand to stand, The Luncher's greybeard nous had taken him backstage: "Parties and backstage. Those are the places where the real action takes place," he mused.

That's the way he'd seen AMD's K6-3D demonstration. "Only a canned demo but interesting to know that Cahos Island -The Lost World - Jurassic Park - that one with the really long title - will be the optimised game chosen to launch the processor," he said. "And good to be reassured that AMD reckons it has solved its problems with chip yields."

Funniest sight of the week? A game Bill Gates dancing to high-energy sounds at Spencer F. Katt's party in the Harley-Davidson Café. Gates gave it at least 15 minutes and not just the 'old man enjoying himself shuffle' of other top execs who attended. Flailing arms, fancy foot movement, the works. Also there: VisiCalc visionary Dan Bricklin; Gateway boss Ted Waitt, now officially off the ciggies; Traveling Software head honcho Mark Eppley.

Second funniest. The Gates impersonator promoting a Parroty Interactive spoof of Windows (Microshaft Winblows 98) getting kicked out because show organiser ZD Comdex thought his presence could be libellous.

Quite funny. Bill Gates taking the rise out of himself at his opening keynote. Even if he did have to help 7-foot basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar with the mouse movements.

A squabble. Hewlett-Packard isn't over-impressed with Canon. Insiders say that HP is less than happy with its Japanese partner's print engine progress. 'Chop-chop' is the Kanji translation.

A mystery. Where the heck was Compaq at Comdex? You'd think that the world's number one PC vendor might want to have its own stand rather than guest on others' booths like some utility shareware firm from Nowhere, Illinois. And why was Intel in the corridor?

A visit. Bill Gates made a better tour of the stands than many visitors, taking in not on only Big Blue but also Cross, the pen maker that is moving into PC input. Pen computing is, of course, one of Gates's pet projects that has so far failed to burn.

An excursion. Some observers thought up to a tenth of Comdex visitors also caught AdultDex, a sleezy collection of CD-ROMs in a nearby hotel.

Intensely annoying. Iomega giveaway clickers that made the show sound like a field of grasshoppers.

Nine fine parties. Diana Ross at Computer Shopper, flirting with outsize owners of direct sales companies. BB King stumbling but still great at Iomega/AST. Village People at Adaptec (eh?). American Football, beer and burgers at US Robotics. PC/Computing at the Motown Café. Free massages at SIIG. Micrografx's Chilli Cook-off. Windows CE at the Gordon Biersch brewing company. Symantec Scalextric grand prix.

Six Big Hotels. New York, New York, with a fabulous facia that looks like the Big App. MGM Grand, the biggest hotel in the world employing 6,000 staff and with 5,500 rooms. Caesar's Palace, now even bigger and with more Italian shopping arcade nonsense. Treasure Island, with a pirate battle every couple of hours. Stratosphere, with weirdest fairground ride. The Mirage, two big tigers and a nice tropical bar.

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