One of the most enjoyable aspects of Macworld Expo is looking for items, products, and events that draw attention for unusual reasons. My search this year was rewarded with several that were out of the ordinary.
Most Creative Use of a Pickle -- David Pogue, hawking his book, The Weird Wide Web, made a pickle glow and flash using a contraption he made from a wood frame, two nails to skewer the pickle, and a power cord from an old lamp. The electricity activates the salt used to cure the pickle. When people started laughing, he justified the show by exclaiming, "Please, this is science!"
Cool-But-Underwhelming Attraction -- Power Computing made its mark last year with its Power Tower, a tall rig where brave show-goers could bungee jump over the Boston Harbor. Power brought the Power Tower back, but in a shorter, less exciting version: the Power Zip Line, where you strapped yourself into a harness and slid down an angled cable towards the ground. Although it looked fun, it wasn't quite the same as plummeting headfirst at the harbor.
Best Entertainment -- I unfortunately missed this one, but many people told me that this year's best party act was at the Mac OS 8 rollout. Soul godfather James Brown entertained the crowd with a rousing two-hour set.
Most Unfortunate Costume -- Every Expo there seems to be one company that delights in dressing up an employee in a costume. This show's winner belonged to the folks at Hitachi, who created an MPEG Cam costume to accompany the release of their cool new digital camera. The only problem was that the costume was made of cloth and foam, so the sleek camera ended up looking like a squishy Star Wars droid.
Best Floor Entertainment -- This award is presented hands-down to magician Joel Bauer, whose pitches for Motorola's StarMax line of Mac compatible systems drew a crowd of people that consistently blocked the aisle in front of the booth. Not only was he a good magician, he knew his information thoroughly and performed without a script. So even if you'd seen his act before, the next show was guaranteed to be different. It's no trick: he was the real deal.
Most Useful Tchotchke -- Motorola gave out sturdy nylon show bags to anyone who would listen to its presentation, easily besting some of the other companies' bags that were usually torn by the second day.
Best Tchotchke -- Although this Expo seemed a little short on free goodies, I was particularly taken by the rubber aliens given out by the folks at Alien Skin Software. Not only were they an interesting mixture of cute and gross, the colors often matched the hair colors of the employees handing them out.
Best Little-Mentioned Addition to the Show -- Tucked deep into Apple's pavilion, a line of companies featuring Rhapsody applications proved that the next generation operating system is moving along nicely. Although Apple is currently drawing attention away from Rhapsody in favor of selling millions of copies of Mac OS 8, when the next-generation OS arrives, there will be software to take advantage of it. Attendees were able to play with functional programs running under pre-release versions of Rhapsody.