Computer Expo

As regular reader of these pages may be aware of, I have a liking for expos, so you can imagine my delight when I learned of the Computerworld Expo. Actually, that’s a lie. The news of the 2001 Computerworld Expo did not excite me much.

I went to the 1999 one and listened to some guy with a beard rave on about where the Internet was “@”. That was enough to make me run away screaming in horror and disgust.

I wasn’t planning on going this year, but a friend required me to go so he could bum a ride off me, so I didn’t really have a choice.

We arrived just in time for the Geek Bowl, a quiz to test the geek knowledge of the participants. After swiping my card with the “hostess” (who looked suspiciously like a man), I went in and joined the Geeks team. The Geeks at that stage were having their arses kicked by the Nerds team on the other side of the room.

At this stage I was miserable. Sitting in a room full of self-confessed geeks and nerds who were answering questions about computer stuff that was going straight over my head, I felt sure that anyone moment someone really cool was going to walk past and see me and laugh and ruin my urban hipster status. However I realised that really cool people would not be at such an expo, so I cheered up a little.

Then an unexpected thing happened. As well as questions about computers, there were also questions about general geek culture, including more than a few about geek movies. There were questions I knew the answers to, and answer them I did. Soon the Geeks were in the lead, totally kicking the Nerds’ arse! Then the scoring program crashed, but it was up and running in time for the grand final question.

The question asked what Patricia Neal’s character said to Gort the robot, and it was also said by Bruce Campbell’s character in Army of Darkness. I knew it! I hurriedly scribbled it down on a piece of paper. But the Nerds got it right too, so it was a draw. The quizmaster threw inflatable penguins at the teams and I grabbed one. I was so happy. Oh, quelle sad-arse!

My next missions was to score as much free stuff as possible without being disgusted by the large amount of e-w@nkery.

My loot:

  • 3M Notebook Palm Pads
  • Three bags of jelly beans for Job Universe
  • Two IBM drink bottles with a compartment containing three penguins (like those Eskimo lollies, but penguin-shaped)
  • One sock (I apparently get the other one when they ring me up later)
  • Three Compaq juggling balls
  • Two cans of Red Bull
  • One can of V

(I’m thinking if I had all that stuff before the 12-hour movie marathon, I would have been set.)

It wasn’t pretty interesting to compare this year’s expo to 1999’s. There was much less pretentious arse than two years ago. There was a distinct lack of dodgy web designers (“I will design you one A4 size www page for $50!!!!”). There was money behind a lot of the stands, and it showed.

The best bit is how, unlike at other expos, sex is not used to sell anything. Stick a chick in hot pants and potential customers will not look at her – they’ll be too busy looking at the hardware to notice.

I left the Expo with my bag full of free stuff that I don’t actually have much use for. I donated the penguin to a friend’s geek flat. It pains me to say it, but I had a reasonably good time.

Rebirth

It was a Friday night. I was in Aotea Square hanging out with my skater homies. Actually, I don’t have any skater homies, but it was a Friday night and I was hanging out in Aotea Square with Selwyn. Ok, not Aotea Square, which was bloody freezing, but the pseudo-Blade Runneresque relative warmth and comfort of the Force Entertainment Centre.

So Selwyn says, “Hey, Rebirth is on! Let’s go and see it.” I had heard of Rebirth. Some dude had posted a message to a newsgroup asking if anyone knew where to get lots of Coke really cheap because he needed it for Rebirth. That was about all I knew of it.

But I quickly learned that it was a LAN convention type thing. The idea is a whole lot of people bring their computers along and they get hooked up on a network so they can all play games, like Quake, together. All that gets the religious-sounding moniker of “Rebirth”.

So Selwyn and I made our way over to the Aotea Centre to view this spectacle. The first sight that greeted me on arrival was a bunch of dudes throwing an inflatable sheep around. Righto, lads.

In one corner some electronic music played, a sponsors banner hung on the wall. Row after row of guys sitting in front of their computers playing games.

After perusing the isles, Selwyn and I concluded that the event was 99% girl-free. I think I saw two girls actually sitting at computers playing, and a few others who appeared to be visiting. But really, really, that’s not surprising.

I mused that if a female were to get up on the balcony, take her top off and yell “Hey check out my tits!” she might get a few glances, but no one would really be all that interested. But I’m sure the purpose of a LAN convention is not meeting girls, so it doesn’t really matter.

Almost every desk had a 1.25 litre bottle of Coke sitting on it. Bags of McDonald’s and Burger King sat on laps. I spotting a large box of liquorice on one desk. Potato chips were also a popular food item. Eating at an event like this does not involve any culinary pleasure. The only requirement is that the food must be dry, able to be eaten with fingers, and be filling. Pure fuel.

The convention room was spacious and air conditioned, but was already starting to be filled with that distinctive eau de geek.

The event goes on over the whole weekend. Some people go home and sleep, others bring a sleeping bag and bed down for the night. By the end on Sunday the place is going to be filled with a bunch tired, smelly, messy geeks.

While I have a computer and spent time in front of it, the whole LAN gaming subculture is something I’ve never been part of. I don’t really get it, but I know that no matter how bleak the hall full of guys and their computers looked, they were probably having a pretty good time. And besides, there’s always the blow-up sheep for company.