Computers at the Conference
Lest conference attendees miss their daily email fix (a comment about
this was made at one of the plenary sessions), quite a number of
internet-connected computers were made available to anybody who could
type ``telnet.'' They were-well received.
Portable computers were also quite the rage. I don't think more than
half had them, but it's difficult to tell. A table full of mini-DIN-8
cables with AppleTalk to the internet was made available: it was
completely full every time I saw it.
How Presentations Were Made at the Conference
Using Mosaic as the presentation software was the rule. Each
conference room had one or two overhead projectors with
computer-connected LCD screens, and a mac, a Windows box, and some
unix box, all of which were connected to the net. Some clever types
actually used their remote servers (rather than a local file) as the
source for the HTML with their slides. This once or twice caused
problems, most often when a full-page image was coming across the
Of course, most presenters were smart enough to bring a backup set of
physical transparencies made from their HTML documents.
Everybody, their company, their cousin, their dog, had a homepage or
something worthwhile on the net. I've never scribbled ``http://''
more often in my life. It would have been really nifty if there was a
printed, or better yet, online listing of everybody's URL.
As it was, people often resorted to giving out business cards with
URLs written hastily on the back.
Sayings and Acronyms
I'm sure you've heard our current crop of graphical interfaces
referred to as the Windows Icons Mouse
Pointer, or WIMP interface style. This conference
introduceed me to a few new ones:
Also, a few other, more serious acronyms were heard far and wide:
- Demo or Die: I heard this all over the conference. In
many of the minds present, it had replaced publish or
TSIWC, or This Shit Is Way
Cool, was claimed by Paul Evan Peters in his excellent opening
speech as the state that most of the Web has been in.
TSIGGETU, or This Shit Is Getting
Good Enough To Use, is what Peters claimed
is slowly becoming the case. This, he claims, it what we should be
Weavers and Dancers: I heard this a number of times in
reference to people who either surf the Web or build breakwaters
therein. It sounds too fuzzy for my taste.
MIME, or Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions. Everybody spoke of MIME types. The defining
document, apparently, is Internet RFC 1521.
SGML, or Standard Generalized Markup
Language, seems also to be on
everybody's mind. There were a few papers on the subject in the
authoring tools session.
MBONE , the Virtual Internet Backbone for Multicast IP (no, I
don't know where the acronym comes from), was also ubiquitous. The
conference was broadcast over the network in real-time, which
appeared to work at least a little. In one session I attended, a
remote person asked a (nearly-inaudiable) question.
Comment on Demand
I think there is something fundamental going on here: Mosaic and the
World Wide Web has been growing at an exponential rate. Larry Smarr,
the director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at
UIUC, said NCSA's WWW server eventually turned into a supercomputer to
handle the load: nothing else would have been fast enough.
So it stands to reason that the conferece would be overbooked; its
sessions overcrowded, about half were standing room only; its hotels
full, since I ended up in not the first hotel I called, nor the
second, where I had a reservation, but a third, where the second sent
me after informing me that they, too, were full.
Don't they get it? Exponential Growth Exponential
The I Can't Believe They Made a Bumpersticker with That On It
Microsoft, I swear to god, was giving out stickers with
On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're Running Windows NT
printed on them.
I wonder if the clever marketing person got the original joke, which
asserted that creatures which might not be otherwise be allowed into
``normal'' circles are allowed on the Internet. What is this trying
to say about Windows NT?
Actually, this isn't even a true statement: you can tell.
Wendell Baker's comments on this.
Just for fun, here's a listing of all the forms of transportation I
used getting to and from the conference, roughly in order of appearance:
And I walked a bit, too.
- Pickup Truck
- People-Mover (horizontal escalator)
- Boeing 757
- Airport Shuttle Van
- Chicago City Bus
- Chartered Bus
- Chicago Transit Authority Train
- Douglas DC-10
- SamTrans Bus
- BART train