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Friday, January 28, 2011

Cristael and Arnold reporting from Macworld and thereabouts

MacValley Blog: MacWorld 2011: Road Reports

Monday, January 24th: Everyone should take a trip to San Francisco at least once a year. When you arrive in SF, go get yourself some clam chowder at Neptune’s Palace, located at Fisherman’s Wharf. Then drive your car over the Golden Gate Bridge, get off the freeway on the Marin County side on the Sausolito Exit, and drive up to the observation points that overlook the bridge. Bring your camera and take lots of great shots of the Golden Gate with the city of San Francisco in the background.

Do Nots: Do not drive to San Francisco via Bakersfield and Fresno. During the winter months, there are blankets of fog that can can get so thick that schools are closed. Saturday evening, Arnold and I drove through banks of fog in black darkness. The only way to figure out where we were going, was to follow the red lights of the cars ahead of us. And Sunday was not that much better, even though we drove in daylight. You don’t get to see much of the scenery when you’re driving through major fog banks.

Do give yourself two or three days to make the drive, and if you want to have an exceptional trip, take Highway 101, like we did last year. We meandered through a few side excursions in Wine Country, and we had a great scenic trip. Lots of beautiful scenery and equally beautiful horses. Also, there were great views of the Pacific Ocean all the way up the coast. Sure beats driving through fog.

Wednesday, January 26th

We've had an eventful two days since we got here. On Wednesday we went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View (which is not far from Apple headquarters in Cupertino). This is one huge museum, with sections on the precursors of computers, the Eniac computer, the early 1950's mainframes, and so much more. There was even one section on putting together a computer program that beat International Chess Master Gary Kasparov.

We saw an overwhelming number of computers and mathematical 'machines', going right on back to the time of the Ancient Greeks. The oldest known object that could be called an ancestor of the modern computer is the antikythera, a 2000 year old object that was recovered from the ocean by divers in 1901. There was a short movie about this astounding object. But the Computer History Museum only had pictures of the antikythera, as the device itself is in the National Archeological Museum in Athens.

The antikythera has wheels and cogs and teeth that all look like clockwork. In spite of being at the bottom of the ocean for two millennia, the device, or what is left of it, is as finely machined as a nineteenth century clock.

The antikythera (named after the Greek island where it was found in deep water offshore) was used to predict eclipses of the sun and the moon, to track the movement of the planets, and to predict the dates of upcoming ancient Olympics.

And about 150 years ago, a British mathematician named Charles Babbage designed a "Difference Engine", which was actually a mechanical computer that was programmable and even had its own printer. Babbage never finished the machine because the British government cut off his funding. But he did complete the drawings that were needed to build it.

In this century, two of Babbage's difference engines were built from his drawings, and one of them is in the Computer History Museum. It weighs five tons, has about 8,000 parts, and the whole thing is hand cranked.

And speaking of ancient objects, in one of the many display cases, there was an original Apple I computer. This had the single word 'Woz', in black ink. Nearby were two Apple II computers, both without their monitors. To learn more, go to the web site at

Thursday January 27th

Today was the first day of MacWorld 2011. When we walked through the doors and onto the Exhibition floor, it was jam-packed. Some of the larger exhibitors have returned to MacWorld, including HP and Xerox. And over a hundred small kiosks line the floors of Moscone Center.

People were literally wall-to-wall, and they were buying all kinds of goodies. It was a treat to see the crowds, and to squeeze through the aisles to look at all the fun Mac stuff. I bought items from a couple of the venders, and I'll be bringing them to show at the February 2nd meeting.

The best news of all is, at MacWorld it is raining Prize-Drawing prizes. Many of the venders are being very generous with donations. And Arnold, Andreas Cerny and I all won prizes galore at the User Group gatherings. All these prizes will, in turn, be donated to the MacValley prize-drawing, to be won by some lucky MacValley prizewinners at our upcoming meetings.

Tomorrow I'm going to be back on the exhibition floor, scouting out still more prizes for our prize-drawings. Oh, my feet! And Arnold is taking pictures of all the action.

One day down, two days to go.

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