Macworld Expo, day one: Magic tricks and John "I'm not Q" de Lancie
January 6, 2000
by Andy Ihnatko, Macworld Online
SAN FRANCISCO (IDG) -- Tuesday, 7:45 AM. Along with my PowerBook and a copy of the latest Babylon 5 novel, I've brought with me the last gasps of the bout of influenza that kept me in bed on New Year's Eve.
It no longer has veto power on my agenda, but this morning it makes a convincing case that staying in bed another half hour drinking fluids would be a wiser course of action than making an 8 a.m. social date to breakfast. My first obligation of the week is to speak at the Kickoff, and I don't have to be there for another hour yet.
50 minutes later, I've begun the trek to the Moscone Convention Center. The Kickoff is one of the newish additions to Expo brought by Paul Kent, the guy who organizes the show's seminars and presentations. In some ways it's like an orientation session for the week of Expo, covering the highlights of what'll be going on. In other ways it's like the frenzied bonfire rally before the big Homecoming game.
The program's half-dozen or so speakers each get ten to twenty minutes to speak on more or less any subject. I'm fairly sure that something will hit me during the ten-minute walk from the hotel.
If all else fails, I'll make an opening remark and then collapse into a coughing fit and get helped off the stage. As I walk into the convention center, I know the specifics of what I'll be saying but the bit about collapsing into a coughing fit starts to seem less and less like a voluntary thing as I go along.
David Pogue, Macworld's back-page columnist, gets the honor of the leadoff position on the roster. Alas, he has jettisoned his usual theme, which is to play a Mac-themed song parody on his Casio keyboard, in favor of some Mac-themed magic tricks this year (David is also the author of "Magic For Dummies," which in my humble opinion is one of the better introductory magic books available).
No doubt aided by Steve Jobs' reality-distortion field, he does a version of the cut-and-restored rope trick that illustrates Apple's transition from the doormat of the Industry to the public's (and stock market's) golden boy once again. This is preceded by a delightfully snarky reading of news clippings from a few years back which arrogantly announced with finality that Apple would shortly be out of business.
Digital music and digital video seem to be ready to become the themes of this year's Expo, as reps of those fields took to the podium and eagerly outlined some of the showcase items on the conference schedule.
Bob "Dr. Macintosh" LeVitus took the stage to poll the audience -- this year found a hell of a lot more Mac users who use DSL to access the 'net, but a lot fewer "new" Mac users -- and present Apple with his biannual report card. When trying to evaluate Steve Jobs' performance, the only question is how many pluses to put after the "A"; when evaluating Apple's service and documentation, it only comes down to whether we give 'em a D- or force them to repeat the course again next semester.
I am introduced and so I grab my satchel and the few props therein, take the stage, open my Newton 2100 (which contains the revised outline of my talk) and go to it, winding it up in a cozy fifteen to twenty minutes. At the end, all I can say to myself is whether or not what I said Went Over Well or not -- quality of my remarks notwithstanding -- and it seemed to go over well. No one threw anything at my head directly and afterward there was a small crowd around me asking questions. Which always gives me the pleasant impression that I didn't waste their time.
My main point was that while two years ago I urged us to take back our dignity and last year demanded that we reclaim our arrogance, this year I thought that it was time for Macintosh to pick up some sense of our former recklessness. These iMacs and iBooks and PowerBook G3's are all wonderful, but I'm eager to see Apple come out with something new and unfamiliar and ground breaking once again.
My cold is tapping its wristwatch and reminding me that I'm scheduled to be passed out in my bed in an hour. After visiting a Merrill's store two blocks from the hotel and adding a boatload of cold-and-flu remedies to the list, I return to my room. After dosing myself with cough syrup I am in bed and asleep.
I wake up to the strains of Biography'sprofile of Don Knotts, which is a good enough way to re-enter the world. Fortunately, I have an hour until I need to be at the Museum of Modern Art for the Eddy Awards and its pre-show reception. Unlike last Expo, I have come prepared and bought a wool blazer at a salvage store, so I won't need to hit up hotel security for the Proper Business Attire demanded on the invite.
If I were writing a thriller about Macworld Expo, this is just the sort of scene I'd use to kick off the week. The Eddy is the Mac industry's one really big and impressive award, which means that the reception and presentation attracts just about everyone associates with every serious (and less-so) company on the Macintosh radar. This scene is like that bit during the James Bond movie where 007 is at the Ambassador's formal dinner and gets to chat with the head of the Soviet secret service, the general controlling the missiles, the Politburo member his power is reliant on, and the general's 19-year-old daughter with the pouty lips.
The Eddys were hosted by Star Trek actor John"Q" de Lancie, one of the Mac faithful. "This is the greatest awards show I've ever seen!" he marveled, as he whipped through the table of award statues. "Everyone says two sentences and that's it! We can be home in twenty minutes!"
The biggest buzz among the awards was for QuickTime 4 and for MP3. Hmm. Another check mark next to the idea that audio and video are going to be the big points of this year's show.
John "I'm Not 'Q', Really" de Lancie hung around for the post-awards drinks and desserts. I wished I was one of the presenters, just so I could tell him "Well, I know you've said 'I'm not really 'Q'' like three times tonight, but if you don't mind I'm going to just pretend that this whole thing is just another one of your little games, all right?"
I'm not a terribly big fan of Trek, but it seems like de Lancie was in all of the episodes that I liked. So I felt little shame in seeking out an opportunity to get a picture with the guy. And just so I could play up the "No, no, it's not like I just wanted a photo of me with a Star Trek star" angle, I made sure my jacket was opened wide enough that my Babylon 5 Ranger badge was plainly visible.
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Full text of Andy Ihnatko's column
Macworld Expo 2000
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