Thursday

Thursday 20/02/03The day passes sensibly --- a technical session here, a keynote there -- but the spirit of Intel Developer Forum Spring 2003 is parsimonious. A passing press relations officer rather smugly says that "negative reports are running at under 1 percent internationally," but my fellow journalists are of the opinion that this is because there's almost nothing going on.

Thursday 20/02/03
The day passes sensibly --- a technical session here, a keynote there -- but the spirit of Intel Developer Forum Spring 2003 is parsimonious. A passing press relations officer rather smugly says that "negative reports are running at under 1 percent internationally," but my fellow journalists are of the opinion that this is because there's almost nothing going on. What have we learned? A couple of new code names --- but the meat is absent. Prescott: no numbers. Centrino: to be launched in three weeks, but no figures, no price, nothing tangible. Hm. A rumour surfaces that the Germans have managed to benchmark something that should not be benchmarked, and AMD has set up shop in a nearby hotel to show off a chip that won't be on anyone's shelves for a while, but by and large it's a drab day. Not that there aren't oddities. For most of the week, a large coach has been parked outside the hotel. It has satellite dishes, various aerials and a rather X Files demeanour: emblazened on one side is the word "Echelon". Is the US' much vaunted electronic espionage network a bus? Nah. Turns out its a mobile WiFi demonstration unit --- a hot spot on wheels --- and it's offering tours of San Jose's wireless connectivity. The evening promises more. It's Meet The Engineers night, which I managed to enliven last time by wandering around in a shirt covered in soy sauce. This time, I keep the clothing pristine. The event takes place in San Jose's TheTech, a science museum dedicated to innovation. Although the place is unashamedly aimed at prepubescent kids, it has more than enough fantastic exhibits to keep a very post-pubescent Goodwins happy as he wanders around. There's a microscope with all of Intel's processors underneath it -- you can see the transistors on the 8080 -- and a jetpack training jig for would-be astronauts. I get my face scanned in three dimensions by a mobile laser and print it out with a raytraced metal surface. I look like a vast, shiny Winston Churchill, and I am happy. The engineers are a different matter. I know that Intel are doing some very interesting things with mesh radio -- where each node on a network acts as a router, building an internet of the air without any extra infrastructure -- but the bluff, bearded coves I meet are reticent about discussing it. Frustrated, I pop out of the musem for a moment with a fellow hack, late of PC Magazine, and we take the evening air by a huge animated sculpture. Called "Science On A Roll", it's around 30 feet tall and 20 wide and consists of a bunch of pool balls ricocheting around an enormous adventure playground of metal guides, modified woks, springs, motors and things that go ker-plunk. We watch this in silence for a while, then agree that should the journalism dry up this is exactly the sort of thing we should be making. The evening ends with a showing in TheTech's Imax cinema of a movie shot from within the space station. Worth a look, even if the gorgeous shots of shuttles drifting over the Earth stir complex emotions, and it puts the daily discussions about caches, clock speeds and marketing strategies into context rather nicely.
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