December 1, 2000

by Mike Bernhardt, The Bernhardt Agency

San Diego, CALIF. — SC2000 has come and gone. You’ve attended the sessions…perused the technical reports…read the news articles. But what about the truly important questions? You know…who had the best party? The coolest give-aways? The most amazing booth?

At the Bernhardt Agency, we’re involved in more than 100 high tech trade shows and conferences each year. We’ve been on both sides of the booth. We appreciate the challenges associated with pulling off these events…the hard work that goes into putting them on…the critically important learning and networking that takes place.

But we like to have fun too. And after having dozens of people ask us about the lighter side of SC2000, our agency team thought it might be fun to launch a casual and informal opinion survey to get some answers to these questions. What company really stood out in the minds of the attendees? Who made the most impact with their booth? And of course, that crucial question: who really had the best party?

And so, we herewith present:

The Bernhardt Agency’s First Annual SCxy “Best of Show” Awards

To honor the magnificent marketing efforts of the world’s leading HPC organizations at SC2000.

The awards are based on a random survey of 150 SCxy attendees, including veteran attendees and first-time novices. There is absolutely nothing scientific about this survey or the awards. These awards are in no way associated with the official show organizers or sponsors or any other organizations.

Quite simply, this is just a lighthearted look at SC2000.


Sun receives this award by a majority vote. Among the responses, we consistently saw compliments such as: “open, inviting, good use of displays…nice people with warm smiles.”

Runners up: SGI for its wild lollipop-colored counters and lighting, and Compaq for its “highly charged” and “energetic” booth.


The winner in this category is SRC Computers and its theme of “The Legend Lives On”. Comments from respondents included “a booth that was always busy…lots of interest…simple and elegant presence…took the high road…class act.”

Second place: Yotta Yotta. The name definitely got them some attention.


Hands down – this one goes to Hyperchip for its Swiss army knives. A distant second was NAG for the Chinese stress relief balls. The giveaway most people wished for? An umbrella of course.


The week can be pretty stressful. A warm smile goes a long way when your dogs are barking and there’s no place to sit down. I’m not sure I personally saw all these highly applauded smiles, but our respondents picked:

#1 Cydney Ewald – SUN

#2 Sophie Lonsky – SGI

#3 Cherri Pancake – SCxy committee / Oregon State University

Hmmm, the seemingly 90% male audience has picked the best smiles and they are all female…but what about those grinning faces (male and female) in the Caltech and NPACI booths? Those folks were having way too much fun. I’d have to cast my vote in that direction for the most smiles in one place.


Quite an interesting range of responses on this one. Top three mentioned were:

* The Mansion at Turtle Creek

* Al Biernats

* The Samba Room

Having personally dined at all three, I can add my two pounds…er, two cents with a personal vote for Al Biernats. A great experience and an impressive wine list.


Hosting the best party at an SCxy conference has been synonymous with success and leadership. It’s been a fun way for the leading HPC vendors to thank their customers and give back to the community with an evening of great food, good conversation and entertainment. I know from first-hand experience, having planned, organized and hosted many such events on behalf of Intel. Who can forget the Viking Village in Minneapolis?

But pulling off these special events has become a dilemma. The young blood of the HPC industry would like to see fun, hip parties with great (loud) music and an evening of entertainment that comes back to remind you the next day…all day long…what a great time you had. The old guard of HPC prefers good food and drink and an atmosphere that fosters networking and conversation. Not so loud…and not too wild and crazy.

But, when it comes right down to it, the younger crowd wants to be where the old guard is hanging out, because that’s the mentor base – the link to real networking and knowledge. The young bloods would rather hang out at a party where there’s a chance they could talk to Larry Smarr, Steve Wallach, Sid Karin, Ken Kennedy, Rick Stevens, Dona Crawford, Sally Haerer, Dennis Duke…and a sought-after group of other HPC luminaries…and forego the opportunity for that really hip party.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying these folks aren’t “hip,” in fact, I know them to be quite the contrary. It’s just that this is the one time of the year we get to see so many of our colleagues face to face, and there’s just never enough time. Networking and covnersation take priority. Anyone with insomnia can wander through the myriad of hotel lobbies at 3AM and still find dozens of highly intellectual HPC conversations going strong. There’s a dedication and passion among these folks not seen in many communities. So, to be truly successful, a party has to foster the networking, not inhibit it. That’s where you’ll find the old guard…and that’s where everyone wants to be.

With all due respect, let’s take the Sun party as a case in point. Come on. The Fabulous Thunderbirds! To land such a legendary band was an awesome accomplishment. As a blues fanatic, I know this band has seen the who’s who of Rock & Roll and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues in their audiences over the years. They are huge among their peers for their unswerving delivery of R&B and widely respected for not changing with the decades of influence that have destroyed so many artists.

Based on the entertainment, this should have been “THE party.” And in fact, the initial turnout was impressive – shoulder-to-shoulder people, lines at the buffet tables and huge quantities of refreshments going down. Then the band came on stage. By the end of the second song I looked around and 60% of the crowd was gone. Of course, yours truly was there till the bitter end. But now we’re talking about someone whose office is decorated with rare Steve Ray Vaughn memorabilia. Not the average HPC attendee.

The band was awesome. They were everything they were supposed to be. But they were probably too much for the mainstream SCxy crowd. When I asked a number of people the next day what they thought, the comments I received were pretty consistent. “too loud…couldn’t talk…not a good match for this group…”

Unfortunate. Sad. But true.

My complements to Sun for what should have been the “event of all events”. A class act. And hey, at least there weren’t any cheerleaders! 🙂

So, what did the survey say?


SGI took the honors. Congratulations from the critics at large on a job well done. IBM gets an honorable mention with a number of votes, but apparently lost points because they ran out of real beer and had only “light” …which according to the comments, “may be ok with an e-mail package but not for a beverage.” Sun also gets an honorable mention, despite the preceding novel on HPC parties. I saw a ton of people walking around with cheese rolls …and weren’t they surprised when they opened them for a midnight snack! (if you weren’t there…you won’t understand.)

And One Final Comment: The CONVENTION CENTER

Overall, the attendees we surveyed rated the Dallas Convention center as “the worst ever” for an SCxy conference. From noisy meeting rooms and uncomfortable chairs to “worse than airline coffee,” poor transportation, poor hospitality service…the list goes on.

We didn’t ask about the technical program. I don’t feel the program is something that should be lightly judged or treated with humor.

SCxy is by far the standard by which other scientific and academic conferences should be measured. The few sessions I was able to observe were impressive, professional and insightful. Our complements to the entire organizing committee and in particular the program committee. Once again I came away from the conference feeling proud to be part of this community.

Till next year!

Mike Bernhardt

(if you have additional comments or think this survey missed the mark, let us know. Send your comments to [email protected] )

Bernhardt is a well known strategic marketing and communications consultant who has been active in the HPC industry for 13 years, and a member of the SCxy Industry Advisory Committee. He also serves on a number of corporate and advisory boards for early-growth companies and works closely with several high-technology incubators and Venture Capital (VC) firms.

The views expressed in this article are those of its author and not necessarily those of the publisher or staff of HPCwire.


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