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ADW '98



This year I'm breaking tradition to acknowledge the changes at this annual event. The venerable "Autodesk University" is now just one facet of the more inclusive "Autodesk Design World", or ADW for short. As usual, I'm compelled to record my adventures for posterity. Enjoy!

Owen Wengerd, President

My Diary

September 24, 1998
by Owen Wengerd
All Rights Reserved

If you've been paying attention, you may notice that this ditty is dated exactly one week after the end of ADW '98 in Philadelphia (aka Philly). Not only am I still recovering from the mental strain of that whirlwind week, but by now I've forgotten everything important that I was going to write about! We'll just have to settle for the less important, but more interesting, stuff that makes these excursions so memorable.

I decided to make the trip from Ohio to Philly by car in order to save the airfare money for more important things like the slot machines in Atlantic City. I started out a little before noon on Thursday, intending to get there by 7 PM, in time to find a hotel and get some sleep before Friday morning's ADN conference. The weather was perfect, and things went great for the first 150 miles of the journey.

To understand the gravity of what happened next, it helps if you're married. You see, my wife decided at the last minute that she could bring the kids in her minivan and join me in Philly for a few days, then return home again on Sunday before she drove me completely nuts. That meant she would follow me from Ohio to Philly, at high speeds, through unknown territory. The fateful moment came just before we got into Pittsburg.

I calmly crossed two lanes of light traffic to take an unexpected exit. I watched in my rearview mirror as my wife, after making it to the exit lane while looking nervously over her shoulder, inexplicably chose to continue on into Pittsburg. To make a long story short, I had plenty of time to wander aimlessly around Philly on Thursday night, waiting on the rest of my family to show up.

My ADW started on Friday morning, when I checked in for the ADN (Developers') Conference. I knew I was going to get a workout this year when I immediately got lost trying to find the ADN conference rooms, after successfully navigating my way to the registration area. I crossed one city street and snuck through some kind of bankers' convention (I wonder who came up with that bright idea) before I finally made it from the registration area to the ADN conference.

You may recall my distaste for vegetables from last year's AU in Los Angeles (aka "the garden city"). Well, I'm here to tell you that the people in Philly know how to serve a cow! Friday was highlighted by the excellent lunch on Autodesk, then topped off with an evening party at Dave & Buster's with excellent food and spirits (and $20 worth of game room play). I didn't even need to visit the nearby Burger King, which I had scoped out beforehand just in case.

Despite Saturday being an "off" day with nothing on my schedule, I somehow spent all day working on getting the AUGI playpen set up. Sunday morning I gave my family the two-bit tour of the convention center complex, then sent them packing. I spent most of Sunday with the AUGI crew trying to get the network working in the AUGI playpen in time for Sunday evening's grand opening. I remember the show floor opening to the public at 6 PM, but here's where things start getting a little foggy.

From Sunday night on, ADW was a whirlwind of people, parties, and networking opportunities. Sunday night was the grand opening cocktail party in the spacious grand ballroom area directly adjacent to the convention center. I still have no idea what I did on Monday, but Monday night was the big shindig at the Franklin Institute, a museum named (I presume) after Philadelphia historical figure Benjamin Franklin.

Now, Monday night is memorable for several reasons. First of all, the party at the Franklin Institute was without a doubt the best I've ever attended! Imagine, for a moment, walking through the stark marble museum halls filled with gadgetry from early electric motors to ancient magnetic wonders, to exhibits on early flight, a railroad history room, and people gazing at historical artifacts from the past as they wander through a maze of staid imagery. Now add a jazz band, a dance floor, hors d'ouvre and beer bars at every corner on every floor, and a thousand computer geeks looking to unwind! Can you say "party at the museo"!?

Here's the kicker though: parked outside the museum directly across from the main entrance was none other than a Microstation/J bus! Apparently the Bentley brothers decided to make their presence known in this city, not far from their Exton headquarters. Several people also reported seeing a Microstation "work crew" working around a utility manhole, complete with Microstation work vehicle and Microstation garb. I wish I'd had a camera! [BTW, if you were there and you got pictures, I want a scan!]

Tuesday was my big day. I had one presentation myself, and was scheduled to assist in two labs. I always enjoy assisting with labs because it's an excellent opportunity to learn how students react to differing teaching styles from a behind-the-scenes vantage point. By most accounts, the quality of the classes this year has improved over the past few years, and my limited exposure in the labs bore that out. The course I taught was beset with technical problems. First, my computer locked up and I had to fall back on my vast technical support experience to fix that problem (I hit the reset button). Then 80 minutes into the 90-minute course, just as I sat down to demonstrate some of my techniques inside AutoCAD, the monitor lost power. Determined to finish, and feeling no need to put my technical support knowledge to further tests in front of a roomful of adoring fans, I finished the class where I feel most comfortable: down on the floor among the students with no hardware to foul things up.

Tuesday afternoon were the AUGI Industry Group meetings, where attendees from various industries gather to channel their collective wishes and gripes to Autodesk representatives (and meet other like-minded individuals). The programming IG meeting was good, but apparently the Autodesk representatives decided that the abuse they received in the past two years' meetings was enough to last through 1998, because they chose to remain hidden in the audience.

The big event Tuesday night was the AUGI annual meeting and the followup beer bust. I was seated directly behind Carol Bartz at the meeting. After Carol was presented with the AUGI top-10 wish list requests, Autodesk Chief Technical Officer Carl Bass (who is responsible for AutoCAD development) gave the keynote address and entertained questions from the audience. Here's a notable quote from Carol Bartz: defiantly, from her seat directly in front of me, "the price of AutoCAD will not change" in response to market pressure from lower-cost competitors.

After the AUGI annual meeting came the annual AUGI beer bust (can you imagine how much more exciting the meeting would be if it came after the beer bust?) They even had selections of vegetable-free pizza this year! Once everyone had pigged out on beer and pizza, the "must be present to win" giveaways began in earnest. AUGI president Don Spencer did the honors, standing on a chair and trying to call out winners over the din. Once Don's voice started to give out, I took over. Have you ever had the urge to stand on a chair in the center of a large crowd of professional businesspeople and scream at the top of your lungs? I haven't either, but it was still fun!

Wednesday was the final day of festivities, er, I mean studies. I had one lab to assist with, then I hightailed it out of Philadelphia right around lunchtime. What a week! This was my third year at ADW/AU, and I still can't get over how much takes place in such a short time. As I write this, I continue to think of dozens of anecdotes which I'd like to share, but then I think to myself that I need to leave some reason for readers to experience the event in person next year in New Orleans. I hope to see you there!

Who was Who

As has been my tradition, following are short descriptions of people I met at the show (in alphabetical order, and my apologies to the many folks I missed). I generally only list people who haven't yet been introduced in prior years.

Bartz, Carol
This year I finally had a chance to speak to Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz in person at the AUGI beer bust. I could tell she takes no crap, and I imagine she has no problem keeping control at Autodesk. She put forth a party animal image, directing CTO Carl Bass when the AUGI meeting was over, "let's go get some beer." In private, she has no trouble launching into a profanity-laced tirade. I'll go out on a limb here and theorize that high levels of testosterone are a prerequisite for top management positions in the corporate world, and I'll further theorize that Carol meets that qualification.
Batko, Dale
(CAD User)
Dale is very energetic, and seemed like a good listener in the few minutes I spoke with him. He is the US correspondent for CAD User, and his name surfaces periodically in AutoCAD publications.
Batton, Elaine
The new manager of online support and services operations at Autodesk is a no-nonsense outsider from down under. She is still easing her way into the sometimes acrimonious internet scene at Autodesk, but I expect her presence to be felt more and more as she takes over where Cara Denko left off.
Discher, Brenda
The Senior Product Manager of the Mechanical Market Group, Brenda is height-impaired. Physical stature notwithstanding, Brenda has a high energy and hyperactive nature. She seems very focused, and zeroes in on the issues quickly and with no nonsense. She's also a quick study, and a good listener.
Garrigues, David
(The CADapult)
David is a newsgroup regular who spotted me at the Sunday evening party. Very enthusiastic and excitable, he was thrilled at the prospect of being in the presence of all the AutoCAD personalities at the show. I predict that David will one day be teaching AU courses instead of taking them.
Gimenez, Ralph
(Perceptual Engineering)
Ralph is the creator of Sage-CLOS (Object-based front end for AutoLISP), and someone I've known and respected for a long time. He pops up in the Autodesk newsgroups periodically, and this year he manned the Perceptual booth at the show. Ralph is hyperactive, full of energy, and his mind is always racing (sometimes too fast for his own good), and he's always personable.
McCormick, Lowell
(Compuserve user)
Lowell posts frequently on ACAD, and he appears to be a hardened AutoCAD user with lots of experience in the trenches. He was in my Tuesday class, and introduced himself at the end of the class. I enjoyed a conversation about his past AutoCAD work as we talked after the class, but had to cut it short in order to get started on my afternoon lab assistant assignment. I'm sure I'll see him again next fall as ADW moves to his home town of New Orleans.
Osborne, Todd
(BarnStormer Software)
I met Todd at the ADN conference. I knew right away that he was not your average programmer; it turns out he's a former Microsoft programmer who made his millions then moved on when it wasn't fun any more. We talked all afternoon about computer security, Bill Gates, programming AutoCAD, and programming Windows. Connections like this is the reason why I go to these events!
Posma, Robert
Robert is a good guy, knowledgeable in AutoCAD, who is active in the Alaska AutoCAD User's Group and pops up on Compuserve occasionally. He is a fixture at ADW each year, and I had the pleasure of working with him in one of the labs that I helped out with.
Sage, Mark
(Summit Software)
Mark recently defected from Autodesk and moved to Summit, which is responsible for Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications sales and support as an independent Microsoft contractor. I've met Mark before, so this is hardly a first impression, but this year he played a different role as the Microsoft representative. I identify with Mark because I've never seen him in a suit (and I think he would feel just as uncomfortable in a suit as I would).
Szilvasy, Albert
I suspect that Albert's youngish looks and small frame mask his age and maturity. Albert is of Hungarian heritage, a member of the ADN technical support team, and a regular poster in the public Autodesk newsgroups. I always enjoy being in the presence of great programmers, and Albert ranks up there with the best of them. We had several great discussions between (and during) presentations.
Townsend, Jim
Like all the Autodesk technical personnel, Jim worked like a dog in the days preceding the show. His tireless work on the troublesome AUGI playpen network setup was invaluable. Jim posts on the network support newsgroup periodically (no, he's not related to Bill Townsend).
Williams, Ed
Ed is a portly fellow, well-spoken and well-mannered, and all-around nice guy, who posts frequently on the Autodesk newsgroups. A fellow programmer, Ed's itinerary at ADW was similar to mine.
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