Networking

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Conference freebies

How long before laptops and PCs are in the goody bags?

Written at a conference in London and dispatched a day later from a LAN cable I found lying unused on the floor in an office building I happened to be visiting in Brussels the next day. DHCP seemed to work and it was just too hard to resist!

As you might imagine I have been attending conferences all over the planet for decades. In fact, very early in my career I made a conscious decision to get to at least three or four conferences per year as part of my continuing education, training and perhaps most important of all, as part of my personal network building. As it turned out, this number was conservative. As the technology accelerated so did the need to get to even more conferences.

So, year on year, I have seen the technology and style of conferences progress from blackboard to acetate, 35mm, PPT, animation, movies, live video and finally full interactive multimedia with the audience participating online.

At the same time, depending on the bodies involved, I have also seen the giveaways progress hand-in-hand with technology. At many conferences, especially those involving trade shows and exhibitions, this often equates to the children's party 'goody bag' stuffed full of items of questionable use and taste.

In the old days it was pads of paper, pencils, cheap pens, rulers, ties, caps, T-shirts, books, bottles of wine and bags, plus of course brochures and advertising material. Gradually the goody bags began to include better quality pens, floppy discs (remember those?), disposable cameras, and CDs and DVDs that contained everything from advertising to really useful pictures, movie clips and of course slide sets and reference publications.

Within the last couple of years the freebies have started to include USB memory sticks of up to 1GB capacity, often containing all the conference presentations. There have also been software packages and free subscriptions to new web services demonstrated at conferences.

This week, at a professional and not a commercial conference, I was even handed a fingerprint reader. Yep, a technology that was more than $1,000 just a few years ago is now a cheap (less than $30) giveaway.

Of course commercial conferences run by the IT industry have always been able to be more extravagant and in recent years I have seen radios, MP3 players, mobile phones, PDAs and more handed out like M&Ms.

At the charity tombola during the conference dinner there may well be on offer anything from a flight in a helicopter, to a PC or a crate of wine, or even a vacation - all generously donated by the companies represented of course. Such enterprise generally produces a hefty contribution to some charity as the delegates have to dig deep for each ticket.

Of course I collect all this stuff. It is just hard to say no to shiny toys! I take it all home, have a play and then mostly give it away to individuals and schools who seem far more deserving than me.

This all got me to thinking - what might be next? The rapid fall in prices of everything, and the seemingly endless ability to over-produce, over-consume and over-gift seems to just advance year-on-year.

How about digital cameras, portable hard drives, software applications, laptops and PCs? It seems to be just a question of time, as technology advances, and prices just continue to fall faster and faster.

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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