My first trade show was Comdex 1995. Not the Fall Comdex in Las Vegas, the one everyone pictures, but the Spring Comdex in Atlanta. My first and most enduring image of Atlanta is negative. As it turned out, right before Comdex, Atlanta was inundated with 200,000+ college kids indulging in an annual weekend party called “Freaknik.” Everywhere college kids were acting badly as only college kids can. Atlanta had decided (according to Wikipedia) to clamp down on the revelers and clamp down they did. I was welcomed to Atlanta with police barricades and images of college kids, face down on the sidewalk being cuffed and loaded into waiting paddy wagons.
After navigating the unsettling obstacle course, I arrived at a pesthole that marketed itself as a hotel but I won’t dwell on that. We were there to show off at new and very exciting 1394 product. A video conferencing camera. In 1995 and 1996, video conferencing was hot and Sony had just released a video conferencing camera. TI took a prototype of the camera to several tradeshows. TI connected it to a 1394 port in a TI Travelmate Notebook. This notebook had 1394 added to it in the TI factory in Temple, Texas and was only for demo purposes.
We caught the eye of passers-by by pointing the camera on them as they walked by. They would see an image of themselves on the computer screen and come over to see what we were doing. This was a rare event at the time and worked like a charm. Now it is so hackneyed that no one would embarrass themselves by making this the big demo at a tradeshow, but we were ahead of the curve at the time.
We thought this was going to be the killer application for 1394…video conferencing. That was before sub-$100 desktop cameras hit the market in volume. 1394 then moved into high-end cameras for factory automation. We where half right. 1394 is great for cameras. We just had the wrong market segment in mind.