Here's a partial listing of the vendors with booths at the conference, which I ordered from most to least important.

General Electric

General Electric Corporate Research and Development showed off what may be the most CAD-related thing I've seen on the net so far. They showed off a mosaic forms-based system for doing computer-aided design of plastic parts, which worked as follows:
  1. An engineer would fire up Mosaic with a GE page containing forms.
  2. He or she would enter some design parameters (e.g., the length of the snapping plastic tab, the strength it had to be) into the form and click on a "design" button.
  3. These design requirements would be sent to GE's server, which would send them to an optimization package (designed by GE plastics engineers) that looked through the design space and returned a design specified by intricate geometries (this bit has this radius, this thing is this thick, etc..
  4. The engineer would then see
    1. a 3D graphical representation of the returned design
    2. a description of the GE plastic best suited for implementing this design (here's where they win: any supplier who makes it this easy for engineers to use their products is going to win)
    3. graphs showing the optimizer's behavior (figure of merit over time?)
    4. comments on what was ``difficult'' about the design, such as which parameter the optimizer had to work hard to acheive
  5. If this design was satisfactory, I presume there would be some way of saving it, or sending it off to the ordering department.
I was told that this work was ARPA-funded, and I believe it is available publically.

They also had a system whereby a FORTRAN (ugh!) program could be analyzed and given a Mosaic forms-based interface. This amounted to looking at the parameters of a given subroutine (FORTRAN-speak), building an HTML document with the necessary forms, and making it so that the server, when given a form, with the necessary input fields filled out, would execute the FORTRAN program and return the results in another HTML document.


Adobe Systems Incorporated was showing off their new Adobe Acrobat 2.0 software, which addresses the problem of distributing electronic documents. Their approach is to use a smarter version of PostScript, called PDF or Portable Document Format, that can be easily searched. They've had this for a while, but it hasn't caught on.

This time, however, it looks like they're beginning to get the right idea. They're freely distributing browsers for the PC, Mac, and Unix platforms, and intend to charge you for programs that convert from other formats into PDF. The fellow I spoke to claimed that they had a program capable of reverse-engineering PostScript files into PDF. It sounds quite impressive, and they appear to be offering substantial educational discounts.

Besides being a good place to catch a lot of people who like electronic publishing, they came to the conference because Acrobat includes hypertext (i.e., URL) link capability.

Sun, IBM, DEC, HP, Microsoft

All of the big workstation vendors, and that other company up in Redmond, had booths. None of them appeared to have much to say, although IBM appeared to have their own Mosaic client running under (ugh!) OS/2.

Compuserve, America Online, ...

The commercial online service providers were conspicious in their absence. They even got some bad press in one of the plenary sessions, something along the lines of
In many ways, the Web is experiencing a new wave of immigrants. Like other immigrants, it is necessary to treat them well, even if they behave badly. So if you see an address ending with, don't be prejudiced.


DigiCash's David Chaum deserves mention for his blatent commercialism. During his talk in one of the plenary sessions, he briefly described his company's new digital cash system, and proceeded to launch it. He went so far as to put a slide in his Mosaic-driven presentation with Click to start the Ecash launch (Ecash is the name of DigiCash's electronic cash system) and announce that all WWW Fall '94 attendees would be given $50 ``cyberbucks'' on their system just for attending. I've not yet tried taking him up on it.

After he clicked on the click to start page, the server froze ominously.

See my comments on other commercial transaction systems for more information.


Of course, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. had a booth with their Internet books and product catalog. Try also this URL to get at them.