Friday, April 13, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Chicago ~ by Kelly Markham

McCormick Place for COMDEX 2001. COMDEX 2001, a three-day expo at Chicago's McCormick Place,attracted 70,000 people. For those of us that were looking for creative displays, high-tech gadgets or new industry innovations, Comdex was NOT the place to be. The biggest players were missing: Microsoft, Palm and Apple. So, Xerox, EDS and Sun did their best to entertain our tech-hungry minds. Xerox had a colorful canopy, EDS had palm trees and Sun had web-enabled kiosks. Local companies and organizations focused on getting their names out:, AIP and Go2Call, for instance, offered little goodies or glamour.

A corner of COMDEX was designed to attract job seekers. About 20 companies met with candidates and collected resumes. The traffic to this area was low because most of the companies were hiring for out-of-state positions.

COMDEX did attract some high-profile speakers and seminars. I managed to visit two.

The first, Women in IT, was hosted by Girlgeeks and designed to promote women in high-tech careers. I listened to two panel discussions: "Taking your career to the Next Level," and "Being a Team player." The first featured top female executives from: Intel,, IBM and Unisys speaking about glass ceilings, stereotypes, geekiness and more. The forum was positive and enthusiastic about establishing a female presence in the new economy.

The second event was a one-hour presentation lead by Larry Kramer, CEO of CBS Marketwatch. He discussed online content, financial reporting and advertising revenue streams. "Don't try to change people's habits" when offering up online content and services and "don't assume people will pay for information they don't desperately need or desire," said Kramer.

Although Microsoft was absent from the expo, the software powerhouse did sponsor a big party at the House of Blues. The after-hours bash was all about high-tech fun. Free food, drinks and music energized the crowd, and Dennis Miller gave the crowd attitude. Networking was soon replaced by singing and dancing, and Microsoft became the hero of the nights.

Overall, COMDEX 2001 was a disappointment. But I did manage to test drive a Mercedes and see a dancing alien sing "I will survive."

Kelly Markham is the founder of, a portal for Chicago's internet community. indexes local high-tech resources like: networking organizations, non-profits, tech districts, education, jobs and more.