A flying visit to Florida took up the end of last week, with twenty hours in the back of two Virgins buying me slightly longer in Fort Lauderdale — Milton Keynes with palm trees — and an afternoon in Miami. The purpose of my visit was to check out the rather amazing claims of XG Technology, which says it has some superb ideas to make broadband wireless much cheaper, easier and quicker. You can read what I made of all that here… but it wasn't just a matter of hanging around in fields squinting at oscilloscopes, fun though that is.
Some background: this was my first trip to Florida, a place I know mostly through music videos, US Presidential elections and the work of Carl Hiaasen. Through this filter, I had an impression of a hedonistic place inhabited by eccentrics with colourful backgrounds and an engagingly dynamic relationship to matters legal and fiscal. Also, alligators.
I was not disappointed (except with regard to the gators). One of our PRs on the trip — the stonkingly gorgeous Tara — proved to be the girlfriend of Jimmy Vega$, a WWE wrestler. This proved a fascinating topic over dinner: stories of mad families of fans, cock-ups in cage fights and other matters more than worthy of a Hiaasen novel displaced concerns over multipath distortion in the wireless data stream. And we can only dream about the Jimmy Vega$ versus Johhny Vegas deathmatch.
As for XG Technologies — the chief executive, Rick Mooers, has history. He is relentless in his defence against what he characterises as press smears concerning previous ventures into technology entrepreneurship which ended badly and in some confusion. Who did what to whom and why I, a mere technology journalist, cannot say. It's all out there on the Web, if you care to look it up: I got a more than thorough briefing about what happened, what it all means and XG's future negotiating strategy from Mooers, which he underlined whenever we found ourselves at a loose end. He is a driven man.
The gators never turned up, despite us being shipped across the wetlands on a highway known as Alligator Alley. There were lots of current investors in that bus, some of whom were Icelandic and none of whom seemed quite sure what they were doing with journalists. There were also some prospective investors who were even more uncertain about the small smattering of hacks, and rightly so. I overheard a fascinating conversation between one such and a senior XG executive: that and some of the things Mooers told me in the back of a cab were so far removed from the sort of sanitised, pre-digested pap that PRs normally give us on such occasions that I'm keeping them for later.
On reflection, I do have one further disappointment. It's those Hiaasen novels. They're nowhere near outlandish enough to reflect what for want of a better term we must call Floridian reality.