By now you’ve probably heard that Macworld Expo has officially been put on hiatus and that there will be no show in 2015. I have to say that I was, like many of you, terribly saddened to find out that such a big part of my life will cease to exist. Paul Kent, General Manager of IDC World Expo and the man behind Macworld Expo wrote in a Facebook post that he’s looking back with fondness and looking forward to what the future will bring. Rather than wallowing in sadness about it, I’d like to take his approach and instead talk about the good times and what Macworld Expo meant to me.
My First Time
The first time I went to Macworld Expo was with my buddy Ron. We accidentally got to San Francisco a day early, and so we got a chance to check out the city. The next morning we stood in line at 5am in one of the strongest rainstorms I’ve ever been in, in hopes of getting into the Keynote. After an hour or so they had pity on us and ushered us into a pen in the basement (I make it sound awful but we were SO happy to be out of the rain). We were rewarded by seeing the great and powerful Steve Jobs announce the iPod Shuffle. I remember RACING out of the venue to the Apple Store on Stockton to be first in line to buy the device Steve Jobs convinced me I so desperately needed.
A few years later, my husband Steve and I decided to attend Macworld and we went together every year after that.
One of our favorite parts of Macworld was getting to know the other Mac Roundtable hosts in real life. We never would have met Don McAllister if it hadn’t been for Macworld. For many years, Steve and Victor Cajiao would get up before dawn to walk the quiet city and share a cup of coffee in the early morning light. Katie Floyd became such a close friend that she’s come to visit us in California. Even though Adam Christianson and David Sparks live very close to us, we pretty much only saw each other at Macworld. Chuck Joiner, Ken Ray, Jeff Gamet, John F Braun – all of these guys are family now. Dave Hamilton and the Macworld All Star Band with Paul Kent of IDG – all great friends now. We had Tim Verpoorten on this planet for far too short of a time and if it weren’t for Macworld Expo, we never would have gotten to know him.
The Mac Roundtable folks loved it when we got to do a panel at Macworld Expo. Chuck Joiner did a fantastic job of wrangling 8-10 people into a coherent conversation. Think about how hard that was – that many people who LOVE the microphone all wanting to talk at once.
The Mac Roundtable will continue to exist and we’ll continue to be great friends, but I’ll look back fondly on the fun we had in real life together.
A few years ago I started throwing a party for the fans of my show. It started small and grew year after year until we actually had to have bouncers! Paul Shadwell from Switzerland, Barry Fulk from Chicago, Julie Kuehl from Fargo, and Guy Serle (from somewhere) ferociously took on that role. We played pool, we had drinks, we chatted, we even had a live hangout where we walked around with a laptop so we could bring in people who couldn’t be there. I know a lot of the NosillaCastaways got to meet Rod Roddenberry via that hangout so the fun went beyond the confines of San Francisco.
In the early days you went to Macworld Expo because it was a place to be with your own kind, a place where you weren’t mocked for using a Mac. It was a place where you were thrilled to see how many Macs were around. I was worried that as the Mac gained popularity and the iPhone took over the world, we would lose that sense of community. Somehow, Macworld Expo maintained that small community feel in spite of Apple’s new found popularity.
I think I can explain this best in an example from the 2014 show. A group of us had gathered at the Chieftain, a bar around the corner where Macworld attendees were wont to gather. We met Paul Wheatley from Scotland and Ewen Rankin from England as we gathered with our usual crowd. But then a guy walked in and simply sat down and said, “Hi, I’m from Twitter.” He didn’t mean he was from the company Twitter, he just meant he knew US from Twitter. He was immediately welcomed into the fold as one of us.
That lack of eliteness, of who’s cool and who’s not was so refreshing compared to every other show I’ve attended. There wasn’t a barrier between you and the luminaries like Chris Breen, everyone was friendly and fun.
I’d love to attempt to name everyone I met because of Macworld but I know I’d miss someone and they’d feel sad. You know who you are and you know I’ll never forget you.
Of course it wasn’t all play. I loved the Exhibit Hall. It was such a wonderful and magical place. Sure there were the huge flashy booths, but many of us preferred the area dubbed Tiny Town where they would take a round table about the size of a large pizza and put four little startups at the table. Tiny Town was often the most crowded area because you could learn about so many products in such a small area.
One of my earliest memories is hunting down the Smile booth to meet Jean MacDonald in person. She was as delightful as I had hoped, has become a long time friend and we even traveled in Australia together.
I enjoyed so much visiting Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba every year to see what wonders in audio they had developed. I remember meeting Guruprasad, developer of Boom at Macworld Expo and because of that meeting, later getting to FaceTime with him. That FaceTime stands out to me because it was morning in India and I got to “meet’ his little children around the breakfast table.
It was the exhibits where Steve really had fun recording our interviews on video. He was often stopped in the aisles to ask about his “rig”. He has a camcorder on a monopod with an RF receiver mounted on top that gets the signal from a matching wireless transmitter I carry connected to a microphone, so his “rig” stands out and captures attention. He enjoyed so much editing those videos and ensuring the quality of the audio and video was good enough for the community to learn as though they were there.
It took two years of interviews at Macworld by both the Cloak and CrashPlan guys for me to really “get” what their products did and why I shouldn’t live without them. I think some of the oddball booths are my favorite memories, like the most recent Macworld Expo where Kirschen Seah helped us interview the developer of Resistorvision, an app that lets you “read” the bands on a resistor to determine their value. An odd little app but one I’ve actually needed!
The Tech Talks
The Tech Talks at Macworld Expo were fantastic. The quality of the speakers chosen was really high and the content was rich with information, AND they didn’t charge an arm and a leg to get in to hear them. I do have to admit that I really enjoyed seeing my friends present more than the big official sessions with famous people. One counter example, though was the presentation Sinbad did at Macworld is in our top ten list of Macworld memories. I also adored being chosen to present at Macworld. Where else would they let someone do an entire presentation _blindfolded_? Still one of the most challenging and frightening things I’ve ever done but so glad that there was this venue to let me do it.
Another great memory was breakfast. I don’t go out to breakfast in my normal life, but at Macworld Expo we always managed to meet up with new and old friends for a hearty meal at Mel’s Diner or Lori’s Diner before that. Eggs and bacon and pancakes mixed with discussions of new apps, what sessions were people going to go to that day, what was the coolest thing they’d seen so far…good times.
Cirque du Mac
Every year at Macworld Expo the Macworld All Star Band would play at The Mac Observer’s Cirque du Mac party. Now you know I’m not about music but this party was awesome. Sure there were way more boys than girls there, but the dancing and the foolishness knew no gender bounds. The band was amazing. So much fun to watch people you know as nerdy little geeks up on stage literally as rock stars. I absolutely loved every minute of it.
In closing I’m sad that something I loved so much is over, but in looking back I have no regrets because I had the time of my life.