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’… 

6 thoughts on “A Farewell to Macworld Expo

  • 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.

  • 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 be clear, that’s not a value judgement, but a bead on our current point in time.

    I’ve never attended Macworld Expo, nor any other Apple-related conference, not out of lack of interest but because I’ve tended to live in parts of the world where the average person couldn’t even spell ‘Macintosh’ (or anything else in English). However, I well remember that 2007 event, and that earlier Power Computing bungee jump celebrating its Power Tower, and have vicariously enjoyed these and other annual or major events for over two and a half decades. And who could forget that event with BG’s face looming over SJ (and the inevitable comparisons to the Borg Queen and futile resistance to MS assimilation), and SJ commenting that the days when MS had to lose in order for Apple to win were over and done?

    We can look back now through the rose coloured lens of the ‘retrospectoscope’, as we say in medicine, with unchecked fondness, however we should not overlook the fact that, for that close-knit Apple community, those were challenging times, characterised with deep uncertainty and differences of opinion over Apple’s future, assuming there was to be one, and few diehard supporters were ever totally onboard with all of Apple’s moves away from Classic Mac OS (remember the resistance to OS X?), adoption of Intel, or even the creation of the iPod and Apple Music and beyond. Indeed, many of these changes were cited by some as existential threats to Apple’s identity and survival.

    Perhaps counter-intuitively, that should be reassuring to both veteran and rookie Apple client in that, what Apple’s past and present share in common is relentless and non-sentimental change; and that while we’ve always found that change unsettling and uncomfortable at first, in the end we’ve embraced it, and along with the rest of the industry, moved on and largely have been better for it, all the while, looking back with fondness over the very the changes we once found so threatening. Humans.

    1. Well said. And so true. But.. even in the darkest of times, we had fun. Someone once asked me if I thought I might have to become “Dr. Windows,” and I replied that if Apple died, I’d find something else I love to write about, but it would not, under any circumstances, be Windows.

      For what it’s worth, I still don’t do Windows and haven’t laid fingers on a PC (on purpose) in at least two decades.

  • 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.

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