WHERE THERE'S A GOOD SHOW (column) - Computer shows examined

Written by David Tebbutt, MicroScope 02/83 item 01 - scanned

Shows are a real pain aren't they? There seem to be so many of them it's hard to know which ones to exhibit at, which ones to visit and which ones to ignore. Companies prepared to spend a fortune on publicity don't find the decision very difficult, they simply go to every one. The rest of us have to make the best use of our publicity spending, so we carefully plan our exhibition exposure.

I'd like to give a personal view of some of the shows I've attended. Since I am in the microcomputer software publishing business, my observations are likely to be unintentionally biased. For example, I do not always notice what mainframes are at exhibitions nor am I an expert on personal computer games. I have chosen three British, one European and three American shows since these are the seven I have most recently attended. The shows are West Coast Computer Faire, Comdex-Amsterdam and Fall, NCC, Personal Computer World, Compec and Which Computer?

West Coast Computer Faire

This show is held every spring in San Francisco and it offers a great opportunity to do business in the nearby 'Silicon Valley'. The Faire is aimed at both consumers and the trade although consumers make up most of the audience. One morning of the three-day show is reserved for exhibitors and their guests.

This is the best time for seeing the show but everyone else makes the same decision so you can rarely find the people you want to see. The show's proximity to the valley brings in a lot of the major microcomputer companies, both as exhibitors and as visitors.

One of the nice things about the Faire is that it needn't cost you a fortune to make a reasonable showing.

There is no need to spend 20,000 on a purpose-built booth although plenty of people do. You can exhibit there for a few hundred pounds and you will not look out of place.

The West Coast Faire is dedicated to microcomputing from the newest games to the most sophisticated hardware. It's fun, unpretentious and in the ideal location for those needing an excuse for a holiday or those wanting to get some solid business done with the manufacturers at the hub of the microcomputer business.

Comdex Fall

This is held at the end of the year in Las Vegas and is a trade-only event. It is full of companies in the microcomputer business and, although many of them went for a substantial booth, this is by no means as necessary as it is with the NCC. Announcements a-plenty are made at this show and you would tend to be noticed more here than you would be at the NCC. Because the show is trade only and people are there to do business, you tend to find the key people you need on the booths. Like the NCC, it is backed up by a full conference programme and it is probably worth going to the show just to hear what some of the leading figures in the microcomputer business have to say.

The American shows give you an opportunity to look into the future. What's happening there may be happening here tomorrow. If you want to look further into the future, I suspect that some of the Far Eastern shows will fit the bill.


Held in the summer, the National Computer Conference tends to move around a bit. Last year it was held in hot and humid Houston. There's no doubt that it is the prestigious computing event of the year and, as you might expect, both the conference and the show are very serious affairs. Until last year, microcomputing companies were a growing but not major appeal of the show. 1982 changed all that, micros suddenly became respectable and you couldn't get away from them. To exhibit at the NCC and be noticed, you do need to spend a lot of money. This event is aimed at business users and the trade and is probably the most professional of all the shows. It is a good one to visit and a must for anyone going for the big time.

Comdex Amsterdam

What a disappointment this show must have been for the American organisers. It's almost as if they expect the states of Europe to be united in the same way that the United States of America are. The show was reasonably well stocked with American and European computing firms but the attendance was poor.

I would not exhibit there yet but I would visit it again to do business with the Americans. Since this show offered the perk of visiting Europe, many of the top brass were there. Also, since there were hardly any visitors, we were able to spend plenty of time with these key people. I think the show has a future but it will take quite a while to establish itself in the same way that it has in America. Like Comdex Spring (Atlantic City) and Fall, it is a trade-only event.

Personal Computer World

When I was editor of PCW, we decided to model our show on the West Coast Computer Faire. The London-based show is divided into distinct areas according to type of user. With an attendance of over 47,000 last year, the hobbyist hall became very crowded. The other halls aren't at all bad if you manage to get on one of the main thoroughfares.

It is definitely a consumer show, although this year it will be having a trade-only day. This is a welcome addition although it does mean that the show will last for five days. Booth quality varies enormously just like at the Faire but it does cost rather more to exhibit at PCW. Like the WCF, you are allowed to sell goods off your stand and a lot of companies, especially those selling games, tend to make a fortune. It is probably the best all-round microcomputer show in Britain.


This is Britain's answer to the NCC, although I suspect the Which Computer Show is coming up fast on its heels. This show is aimed at the trade and the business visitor.

It covers the serious computing spectrum although, once again, microcomputing companies are becoming a mayor force. It is still possible to exhibit at Compec on a small budget. Last year's event was a bit of a disappointment for companies who took booths in the Software Village. Called the Octagon Hall, the organisers felt it better not to mention that this was a tent pitched in one of the Olympia car parks. Tut-tut. Unlike NCC, there is no associated conference.

Which Computer?

This is held in the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Otherwise it's quite a good show. The show is primarily aimed at the businessman although I've no doubt the trade gets plenty of business done there too. It seems to be trying to copy Compec although the emphasis was much more towards the microcomputer end of the business. Stands come in all shapes and sizes and, once again, you could get away with a budget booth and not feel embarrassed.

They're the shows that I've visited in the last year or so. There are a number of others which I haven't attended recently so it seems unfair to comment: Sicob Software Info and CP/M 83 spring to mind.