As has become our custom, we once again present you with the superlatives - the best, worst, and weirdest - of Macworld Expo.
Best Gotcha -- Olympus takes home the award for the best gotcha for their fake film canisters. They look real, but the film leader strip says "Pull." Doing so reveals that Olympus doesn't sell film, and encourages you to visit the Olympus booth to check out their digital cameras. It got us.
Worst Tchotchke -- Iomega picks this one up for the tremendously annoying clickers they gave out to advertise their forthcoming Clik! drive (which sounds fairly cool). Everyone we spoke with found it incredibly irritating to have people clicking these things throughout the entire show, and the Iomega booth during a Clik! demonstration sounded like a plague of locusts. My thought was that Iomega's competitor, SyQuest, should have given out blow guns with tranquilizer darts. In fact, we couldn't figure out the overall thrust of Iomega's numerous giveaways and booth decor: in addition to the clickers, Iomega featured the yellow buttons with often-pointless sayings (they were fun the first time, several years ago), temporary tattoos, and latex-suited models (see below).
Best Costumes -- Human Computing, makers of the ComicBase Encyclopedia of Comics CD-ROM (reviewed in TidBITS-266), didn't have to leap over a tall building for this award, but the company did dress up some booth staff as superheroes, including Batman (who needed a slightly smaller costume), Batgirl, and Supergirl.
Worst Costumes for No Reason -- Iomega cops this award for dressing Kate Moss-thin models in skin-tight latex body suits (complete with black wigs, dark glasses, and high-heeled black boots) and having them pose around the Iomega booth. Tonya asked two of the Iomega folks what the product tie-in was and was told that there was none, but that the models were "attracting attention." Lame, very lame.
Best Performance -- Although it was difficult to beat Ms. Day-Glo Green Perky at the ATI booth, the best performance goes to the two Ullanta performance robots that mixed with the crowds and recorded QuickTime VR movies. Attended by Ullanta Performance Robotics director Barry Brian Werger, we met the two robots in the Apple pavilion. The first robot was about six feet tall and had a digital camera for a head. Its camera was connected to a Newton MessagePad 2000, which in turn was connected to a wireless modem. Every so often, it would spin around, taking pictures that the Newton then uploaded to a Web site to be turned into a QuickTime VR movie. The second, smaller robot tried to follow the first robot, making for extremely cute scenes as the pair trundled around, interacting politely with show goers.
Coolest Low-Tech Device -- The AlphaSmart keyboard wins this one for being a cheap ($250), hardy (it's designed for kids), electronic keyboard that can store 64 pages of text in its 128K memory. Ports enable it to connect to either a Mac or a PC and download text by sending it as keystrokes to any application. While connected, it can also act as a normal keyboard. Its LCD screen may be small (4 lines of 40 characters), but at two pounds it's a great device for kids or note-taking journalists. It can store eight "files," can search for text in any of them, and has basic spell checking features. Battery life is 300 hours on 3 AA batteries, and it's easy enough to use that the directions fit on the back of the unit.<http://www.alphasmart.com/>
Best of Show, Sometime Soon -- Our developer friends who have pre-releases of Mac OS 8.1 were raving over Alsoft's PlusMaker utility, which converts an existing hard disk to HFS+, Apple's new disk format that saves space by reducing block size. PlusMaker received a "Best of Show" award, which seems a wee bit premature, given than Mac OS 8.1 isn't out yet. We're looking forward to seeing both HFS+ and PlusMaker soon, along with PlusMaximizer, another utility from Alsoft that changes Mac OS 8.1's default block size from 4K to 512 bytes, saving even more space in exchange for somewhat increased fragmentation.
Best Business Card -- This award goes to Fabian Ramirez, who we ran into randomly at the show. We'd known Fabian years ago from the Info-Mac mailing list. At the time he was working for SuperMac; he subsequently quit to become a police officer, and now he has fabulous baseball card-style cards that picture him looking official on a police bicycle and have a brief biography on the back. Next thing you know, we'll have Mac trading cards. (I'll trade you four Gil Amelios, an Ellen Hancock, and my T-Maker Heidi Roizen for a Henry Norr and a Steve Jobs without the beard.)
The "You've Got to Be Kidding" Award -- Apple's recruiting desk in the corner of the Apple pavilion wins this one. Given Apple's history of laying off employees, the "Work Different" slogan over the desk could have been expanded to "Work Fast, Work Different, Work Elsewhere" to comply with truth-in-advertising laws.
Best New Word -- Thanks to Mark Kriegsman for telling us that the word for our habit of starting at one end of a hall and systematically working our way up and down aisles so we don't miss much is "boustrophedon." Extra thanks to TidBITS Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg, (who was Adam's Classics professor in a previous life) for explaining that the word comes from the Greek words "bou," meaning "ox," and "strophe," meaning "to turn." And at first we thought Mark just was trying to make a yoke.