Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (The NAB edition)
Hunter S. Linux
Trade Show "Where have you been?" yelled Mike, founder of Vidux, "we've been waiting outside on the curb for hours!" It was 3pm on April 22, 2001 and Mike had just stormed into the press room at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas. I was freelancing for Linux Journal, trying to scare up some quotes from media executives for a story on DeCSS.
DeCSS is the feral cat that was loosed from its bag last year by a teenage programmer living in the Netherlands. This small lump of computer code is used to decrypt DVDs, a process which was supposed to be topic secret. Groups like the MPAA and RIAA are terrified of it, and have already sued one magazine for even talking about it.
I knew some MPAA heavies would be at the conference, and I wanted to hunt them down and ask some questions. But it was a Sunday and not much was happening. When Mike roared in I was sipping a frozen drink and scanning Slashdot, looking for recent news about another DeCSS case in New York.
"OK fine, let's go," I replied, looking around nervously. I was doing PR to pay for the trip and I would have been humiliated if the other journalists found out I was taking orders from a vendor.
Or I had once thought I was doing PR. I'd spent the morning in Gene, Nevada at the Golden Strike Hotel and Casino loading a rented Ford Explorer with hard drives, PCI cards and cables. The equipment was in unsealed boxes and it was spilling out all over the place - dropping onto the parking lot and sliding under the seats. Mike had been lashing signage and metal display mesh onto the roof with dog leashes.
An hour before he found me, I was in the exposition area, where half-assembled structures stretched to the horizon in all directions. Fork lifts whizzed by loaded with crates and palates. Men were painting, drilling and yelling.
The next morning the exposition would open and the hordes would wash over one million plus square feet of booth. But as of Sunday afternoon, he was the only vendor in the entire expo to have nothing but a gray patch of concrete where his booth should be.
"You just cost me $1,000," he said. "We've been looking for you for the past three hours."
"What are you talking about?" I replied, "I've been to your booth three times. I waited there for an hour. You've got nothing done. You need me before you can carry one box?"
"It's all politics with the NAB. All politics. . . those guys, the Teamsters, they're after us. They'll vandalize our equipment. We need somebody to guard it once its upstairs."
"What about the other guys? Jason and Adam?"
"Jason is back at the hotel putting the computers together. Adam is at another booth getting a demonstration ready." (Cont'd)