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Viva Comdex, Sex, and FedEx!

No trip to Comdex would be complete unless someone stepped on my head while lunging for a free T-shirt. Nor would I want to miss the other dubious pleasures of Las Vegas in November: the 45 minute taxi lines, the acrid smell of propane-guzzling cabs, and massive telecommunications traffic jams caused by 200,000 geeks checking their voice- and email at once. Call me a glutton for pain.

COMDEX, Nevada--No trip to Comdex would be complete unless someone stepped on my head while lunging for a free T-shirt. Nor would I want to miss the other dubious pleasures of Las Vegas in November: the 45 minute taxi lines, the acrid smell of propane-guzzling cabs, and massive telecommunications traffic jams caused by 200,000 geeks checking their voice- and email at once. Call me a glutton for pain.

Las Vegasans are less forgiving, judging by my conversations with those dependable cultural ambassadors, cab drivers. The citizens of this town have an almost boundless tolerance for deranged tourists, but Comdex has even pushed them to their limits. Like an outbreak of ebola, the convention is accepted by the locals as an unfortunate affliction. People feel better when it goes away.

And we don't even do what we're supposed to do in this town. With the possible exception of Bill Gates, Comdex attendees are notoriously shy gamblers. But what Homo Comdexicus lacks in gambling gusto, he (the vast majority are men) makes up for in trips to girlie joints. So said the local TV news, not to mention several of my cabbie friends.

Vermel and I are bunking at the Sahara, which coincidentally is where Comdex's seedier half, Adult Dex, is happening this week. The show, which consists mostly of soft core CD-ROM peddlers, got booted from mainstream Comdex a couple of years ago and now fends for itself at a different venue. I have my hands full keeping the always curious, irrepressibly hormonal Vermel away from all the naughtiness here.

But there's no escaping it. I had a much tamer encounter at Comdex with Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the diminutive, sixty-something German sexologist. We met Dr. Ruth on a bus returning from, of all things, a Q and A with Microsoft executives. Squawking into her cell phone as she boarded the bus, Dr. Ruth joked with the party on the other end of the line: "Unt now I'm going to talk about sex with all of these people on the bus here!" Alas, she didn't. Later, I asked Dr. Ruth who got her vote as the sexiest CEO in the entire computer industry, and she walked away from me.

Of course, Comdex is about more than sex. It's also about jealously and competition. Vermel and I cruised by the IBM tent to check out Big Blue's network computers. While we were there, we heard a tad of gossip about Network Computing Devices, which manufacturers one of IBM's NC devices. Apparently, NCD thought it had an exclusive deal to make all of Big Blue's NCs, and was agitated when IBM disclosed plans recently to build additional PowerPC and Intel-based NCs on its own.

No one has given me an NC as a souvenir at the show, but I've picked up enough product literature (if you can call it that) to line the Vegas Strip. Like most Comdexers, I've boxed up all of the fliers, flickering buttons, and random giveaways and FedExed them home. I wish I could do that with Vermel to keep him out of trouble. Who am I to talk? Vermel didn't want me gambling away his college tuition so he's confiscated my credit cards. Send me a few bucks for the slots and mail me some rumors while you're at it.