Locals present or unaccounted for... Comdex PacRim

by Alan Zisman (c) 1998. First published in Computer Player, February 1998

Running for three days, January 20-22nd, the fourth annual PacRim Comdex exhibition brought an estimated thousands of visitors to Vancouver's BC Place?prior to the event, the exhibit was predicting attendance of 35,000, about 40% above last year's figure. There, visitors had the opportunity to browse exhibits from 225 computer and communications companies-  both local and international.

Despite an official cost of $50 for entry to the main exhibition hall it seemed that most visitors were able to get in with a free pre-registration, but 600 paid between $195 for one day to $395 (the full meal deal). This enabled registrants to attend their choice of over 30 sessions where panels of guest speakers provided their visions of the directions of rapidly evolving technology, looking at areas such as Web Site Profit Analysis, and NT 5.0 and Beyond.

In addition, the conference featured speeches by four keynote speakers:

* Don Calder, President of BC Tel-how the telecommunications industry is planning to ramp up Internet connection speed
* Don Chapman, General Manager of Novell Canada-how the Internet and technological change is creating a powerful 'World of Me'
* Dan Ling, Microsoft Research director-how evolving technologies will make it possible for computers to understand human speech-not just the words, but the meaning as well
* Paul Flaherty, research engineer from Digital Equipment-how the Internet changes the focus of work from information gathering to decision making

The stated focus of the exhibition was on helping business people learn to deal with rapidly evolving technology. Exhibits, keynotes, and conferences all revolved around this theme. In fact, in a somewhat controversial move, Comdex management, for the first time, limited attendance to participants aged 21 or over-a move that would have banned Bill Gates at the time he co-founded Microsoft.

While it was easy to lose them in the flood of better known names, a number of Vancouver and BC companies had products on display. These included:

* Seanix Technologies, the Richmond computer manufacturer boldly venturing into the competitive US market, and winning praise from publications such as PC/Computing and Windows Magazine for its product line
* Kerrisdale's Impaq Technology serving laptop users with the well-regarded Eurocom product line, including new, powerful, 266 mHz models
* The Electric Mail Company, providing an answer for businesses, both large and small, wanting to provide employees the benefits of Internet e-mail without the temptations of full Internet connectivity
* FirstClass Systems, offering a range of computer-based training, with over 700 instructional packages
* the convergence of wireless telecommunications and computing was demonstrated by the presence on the show floor of interesting booths from BC Tel Mobility, Microcell/Fido, and Cantel Wireless
* OpenRoad Communications, a division of Synergy Computer, focusing on Web and Java development
* Dominion Blue Reprographics demonstrating colour printing, including colour lasers, large format BubbleJet prints, and other plotting, printing, and scanning technologies
* Three local companies offering products aimed at stemming theft of portable (and other) computers: Burnaby-based bluVenom offers what they describe as 'the first intelligent anti-theft device'. It locks directly into a floppy or printer port. Vancouver's Absolute Software makes CompuTrace, which automatically signals your computer's location to a monitoring center. And Maple Ridge company, Barracuda Security Devices offers a system that includes 120 dB alarms and an optional indelible dye capsule.
* Downtown Vancouver's The Media showing off a multi-screen presentation of their multimedia and Website designs that have been created for clients ranging from BC Telecom to the Clayquot Wilderness Resort
* Other local exhibitors covered the gamut from office furniture dealers to inkjet cartridge reinkers to the BC Science Council's Computers for Schools Project, to of course, our very own Computer Paper/Computer Player booth.

However, equally interesting to me were the Vancouver companies who weren't present... these included some of the region's biggest technology developers, such as Maximizer Software, Seagate Software, Pivotal Systems, ProLogic, MacDonald-Detweiller, and Glenayre, as well as most of the large number of small local companies producing innovative solutions in software, multimedia, and the Internet. It would be nice next year, to see a real effort to showcase local technology providers in BC's biggest computer show.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan