A Farewell to Macworld Expo

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #314

I always feel a bit melancholy at this time of year, which for decades meant heading to San Francisco for Macworld Expo, where I’d spend a few days hanging out with other Apple geeks while seeing and hearing about the latest and greatest new things from Apple and makers of Mac-related products. 

Alas, it’s been five years since Macworld Expo announced it was going on hiatus. While “hiatus” implies there could, someday, be another Macworld Expo, after five years I consider it extremely unlikely. 

And that’s too bad. While some say the Internet has reduced (or eliminated) the need for trade shows and conferences like Macworld Expo, I disagree. There’s nothing like getting 50,000+ Apple enthusiasts in the same place at the same time attending keynotes, exhibits, conference sessions, and, of course, the lavish parties. 

These days Apple holds “special events” for the press for new product announcements. They’re broadcast live via web browser, iOS device, or AppleTV, which is a good thing. But, for the same reasons concert movies are never as good as the actual performance, televised product reveals are never as good as seeing it live with thousands of other Mac fans.

I have so many great memories from the myriad Macworld Expos I attended between 1987 and its untimely demise in 2014. 

Memories are Made of This…

I was there when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone at Macworld in 2007. I was there when Steve Jobs lost his temper during a demo and threw a digital camera at product marketing manager Ken Bereskin. I was even there when Steve Jobs announced Microsoft’s partnership with Apple, and was dwarfed by a gigantic Bill Gates on a projection screen. 

There was the time Power Computing erected a huge bungee tower next to the convention center and offered a free bungee jump to anyone who purchased a new Power Tower Pro at the show.

Power Computing once offered a bungie jump with purchase!
Wingz retail package.

Another time, a new app called Wingz, billed as “the spreadsheet without limits,” appeared out of nowhere with a huge booth filled with jump-suited temporary workers giving away tons of swag (but no demo software). The company and product disappeared soon thereafter. 

We Used to Party Like it’s 1999

Finally, who could ever forget the extravagant parties. I can’t even remember all the great musical artists I saw, but I do remember seeing Devo, Cheap Trick, Lyle Lovett, and more while enjoying fabulous food and cocktails. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen anywhere was at a party for Kai’s Power Tools (remember them?) with Todd Rundgren doing a one-man show in his space-age “Todd-pod” at the San Francisco Exploratorium. It was simply stellar.

Todd performing solo in the “Todd Pod.”

I don’t expect we’ll ever see the likes of Macworld Expo again, but I remain hopeful. Because, you see, if Macworld Expo were to rise from the ashes, I know that tens of thousands of us would do whatever it took to get there.

I’m just sayin’… 

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Marcel Brown

I was there for Devo! It was a Microsoft party, but it was more of a stage show. I remember the Microsoft guy on stage calling Devo something along the lines of “one of the greatest bands ever”. I was a little surprised then when Devo came out. That being said, they put on a great show and I remember seeing so many people in the crowd with the then-new original iPhone (this was January 2008). Good times, for sure.

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Bob: Your editorial is a wistful marking of the end of an era. I concur with your assessment; no matter how you look at it, and no matter how we got here, we’ve entered an age in which a majority of current Apple clients have no memory or living link to Macworld Expo or to the other events of that period. Increasingly, this is a generation post SJ’s Apple. The veteran generation of ‘beleaguered Apple’, who cut their teeth on the Apple II and the Mac, is a dwindling minority, culturally distinct from the larger one of iOS primacy. To… Read more »

Lee Dronick

Oh yeah I remember those! I used to attend them as a user then as a vendor when I worked for Beagle Bros. One time next to our booth was Guy Kawasaki and I traded swag T-shirts with him.

Lee Dronick

I love the logo he had for his After Hours Software.