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Macworld SF 96 Superlatives

Every year we try to do some sort of a superlatives article – the people, booths, products, and events at Macworld that in some way struck us as especially good, bad, interesting, insipid, or somehow out-of-the-ordinary. Here then, is this year’s installment.

Biggest Button Bonanza — Iomega, makers of the popular Zip and Jaz removable hard drives, easily won the award for most creative button advertising. Iomega reps constantly handed out large yellow buttons with a variety of slogans on them, and some show-goers virtually armor-plated themselves with the buttons. The slogans were great, and I recorded most of them, along with some comments in parentheses.

I am creative (so why are you wearing an advertising button?)
I am easy (potentially dangerous for those of the female persuasion)
I am graphic (isn’t that illegal in some states?)
I am loaded (downright stupid, especially on the streets of San Francisco)
I am protected (from what?)
I am smart (sure, buddy)
I am the walrus (Paul is dead)
I do WYSIWYG (but not Windows)
I feel bitmapped (me too)
I give As (no wonder we have problems with education)
I got lucky at Macworld (hmm, multiple interpretations here)
I got Quarked (does that hurt much?)
I like Apples (now if only Wall Street did)
I like recess (you never fell from the monkey bars)
I surf (far out, dude!)
I was recovered from Mac HD (with only a little data fork corruption)

Biggest No-Show — Where was WordPerfect? They’ve had one of the most well-attended booths at Macworld Expos for several years, but it appears that the company’s fortunes have turned on them after being held up for sale by Novell (see TidBITS-302). An article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal talked about the corporate culture clash between WordPerfect and Novell and the damage done to WordPerfect. Apparently, Novell is still shopping WordPerfect’s remnants around, but has yet to find a taker.

Best Teaser — This award goes to a product we can’t name that acts as a bidirectional gateway between HyperCard and WebSTAR. In other words, it enables you to publish HyperCard stacks on the Web, displaying the contents in both text and graphical forms. Geoff and I were wowed by how cool this baby is, even given its extremely early status. We’ll keep you posted when we can say more about it, but I think this product may go a long way toward differentiating the Mac as a Web server, given all the HyperCard stacks out there. It might even help revitalize HyperCard.

Best Tchotchkes — StarNine, working on being called Quarterdeck, cops this prize for their foam brains inscribed with the StarNine URL and the phrase "Blow Your Mind." Apparently, David Thompson, StarNine’s Director of Marketing, came up with the idea (undoubtedly affected at a subconscious level by the name of Chuck Shotton’s company when WebSTAR was still MacHTTP – the name was BIAP Systems, and BIAP stands for Brain In A Pan). StarNine then called a company in Berkeley that provides all sorts of tchotchkes, and asked for a foam brain. That company didn’t have any (who stocks foam brains, I’m asking?), but apparently there’s a world wide database of tchotchke companies, and there’s one company in Taiwan that made a foam brain, originally for a meeting of the America Neurological Association. The tangled webs we weave… .

Softest Floor — We have to hand it to Microsoft – the company really knows how to rent thick carpet pads. After a hard day of moseying around Macworld, the next best thing to sitting was checking out the Microsoft Home CDs like Cinemania, Music Central, Wine Guide, and the more staid Bookshelf and Encarta. Let’s face it, Word and Excel just don’t set the heart aflutter any more, not that I personally have ever experienced much in the way of Microsoft palpitations.

Coolest Digital Camera — Kodak wins this award hands down for the Kodak DC 50, which takes the basic feature set of the DC 40 (which in turn is an enhancement of Apple’s QuickTake digital camera) and adds features like a 3x motorized zoom with a close-up mode for shots within 19 inches. Most important, based on comments during my digital camera articles this summer, the DC 50 can either download images via a serial cable or store them on a Type I or Type II PC Card that you can then insert into a PC Card reader attached to the Mac. The Kodak staff weren’t particularly helpful, but other basic specs are 756 x 504 pixels of resolution, 24-bit color, three levels of compression (7 pictures per MB, 11 per MB, and 22 per MB), and a price around $1,000. I’m fond of my QuickTake, but I might consider moving up if the price was right. digitalImaging.shtml

Monitor Lust — The coolest monitor (perhaps literally) that I saw at the show was a 20-inch color gas plasma display from Nishiden that was about two inches thick. It only ran at 640 x 480, and I don’t know what bit depth it was at, but for $6,000, I decided that my curiosity could be put on hold for a few more years.

Most Geeks Per Square Foot — Jean-Louis Gassee’s new company, Be, wins this award, which was especially interesting given that the BeBox isn’t even Mac-compatible. Even still, I never managed to push through the crowds to check out the BeBox close up (I don’t know if I’m quite enough of a geek to qualify, since I haven’t the foggiest idea with what I’d do with the special 37-pin GeekPort. [I had no trouble pushing through – I think they were scared of my hair. -Geoff] Be was handing out "We be geeks" pocket protectors for their tchotchke, and a sign on the otherwise standard booth read: "Surgeon General’s Warning: Unfit for consumption by human beings." And just in case you didn’t get the message, it said (or I assume it said) the same thing in French.

Best Booth Furniture — Hayden Books and Metrowerks share this award for their use of extremely comfortable leather couches. It’s bad enough that you have to spend most of the show standing and walking, but when you do get to a chair, they’re often the uncomfortable industrial sorts. Nothing beats being able to sink down into a cozy couch and chat for a while, or in the case of the Hayden booth (which attempted to imitate a Borders bookstore) read a book for a while.

Most Ubiquitous Programmer’s Toy — Nearly everywhere you looked, developers were using Troy Gaul’s excellent Infinity Windoid to create palettes, toolbars, status windows, pop-up windows, online help, and more. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I think seeing your name in the credits of dozens of new programs must be equally gratifying. Congratulations, Troy! infinity-windoid-wdef-30-c.hqx

Best New Solution for Old Problems — How many people do you know using overpowered spreadsheet programs to calculate loan payments, or merely average a column of numbers? A forthcoming program from Casady & Greene called C+G Solutions offers a visual, easy to use approach for flexibly integrating data and calculations. Operations are tied to data by dragging operators off toolbars and drawing relationships between them, and the data and relationships can be changed or added to at any time. Once an operation is set up the way you like, it can be "crunched" down and used as a single operator elsewhere in the program. C+G Solutions offers a new paradigm for performing both straightforward and sophisticated calculations, although it is (perhaps unfortunately) being billed as the first spreadsheet innovation in 10 years. C+G Solutions is expected to be available this spring.

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