Aaron's action packed Wakefeld show report...
So once again I found myself loading up the boot of the car on a Friday morning ready to head up to Wakefield for another RISC OS show. Over the years Wakefield has established itself as the biggest show of the year and anyone who is interested in RISC OS can't have missed the flurry of press releases issued over the couple of weeks prior to the show, so this year the show looked like being even more exciting than usual.
I left home just after 12pm having checked tyres (1 spare centrally mounted), fluids (3 cups of coffee and a couple of cans of diet coke) and all the other minor items like stock, computers, till, float, pens, posters etc. I can normally drive to Wakefield in just over 3 hours, but since the Shogun is bigger and heavier I allowed 4 hours for the trip. In the end I finally drove into Thornes park a bit after 5pm, the delay being caused by roadworks on the M25, a nasty Discovery vs RangeRover accident on the south bound carriage way of the M1, of course on the northbound side we had to wait 45 minutes while rubber neckers got a good eyeful. I then got further delayed by the roadworks in Sheffield, still it wouldn't have mattered as the show stands was only just being finished when I arrived.
I found the stand, then drove round to the nearest unloading bay and then tried to find Graeme. Ah a comedy moment, I am ringing him just as he walks round a corner and we almost bump into each other. We unload all the stuff and then start the "which poster goes where" game. A few years ago I came to Wakefield and forgot my bluetack, so I went out to get some, but nobody seemed to have heard of bluetack, no, they have their own version called whitetack, it's just the same as bluetack except that it's white and doesn't hold anything up. So we spent most of the show leaping around trying to work out which poster was going to fall off next.
Anyway with the stand setup it was time to annoy other exhibitors, Dave Holden was already finished, as were R-Comp, however Stuart Tyrrell wasn't so we spent a pleasant few minutes offering "helpful" hints on stand construction. For some reason the voice of experienced stand setter-uppers didn't go down too well so we made our excuses and left. In the meantime the hall was filling up as other exhibitors arrived.
Graeme, myself and Dave Holden then de-camped the Camponile hotel (a kind of French run Colditz), had some beers, ate some dinner then had another beer or two, then got told the bar was closed.
Come the morning everyone else is up and running, but I am still in the land of nod, why? Well getting into bed last night I knocked over my alarm clock and broke it. So I sent the alarm on my phone, which went flat. So just before 9 there is frantic hammering on the window, arghh, I get up and fall into the shower, then fall out again rapidly as it's on cold. It takes 15 minutes to shower, dry, sort myself out and get to the show. Normally you can't park around the hall and have to use the carpark out front, but we have a couple of boxes that we need "to deliver" and so get in, and hence have less far to walk.
We then have a frantic half hour sorting out the stock and delivering stuff to dealers and finish just in time for the show to open. There is a reasonable size queue and people start wandering in, but we stay un-visited for a good 20 minutes, then we have out first paying customer and we are off, before we know what's happened it's 1 in the afternoon and I take a few minutes off the stand for a walk round.
I decide to take the complete walk round starting at the customer entrance. So first up are APDL who have their usual end of block stand. Dave Holden admits that he has been very busy and is running out of both DrawWorks and Sleuth upgrades (by the close of the day he runs out of both - and by Sunday I start wondering if Holden is an old Yorkshire name as he is dancing round the till). Moving past VirtualAcorn, where the new version of VirtualRPC-Adjust is doing brisk business, I bump into Stuart Tyrrell. He has calmed down from yesterday and is showing off the new Unipods as well as the ARM7500 based A75 (which is intended for non desktop customers) and a new A6+. He seems rather happy, indeed over the weekend I notice the stack of boxed A6 machines diminish to almost nothing. I grab a copy of Pocket RISC OS (actually a RISC OS 3.11 ROM made into a key fob) and then notice Stuart's attire, a black polo shirt and a baseball cap? Can I get fries with that? No? Perhaps I could go large for 30p? I won't print his reply but we mutually decide that I will continue my wandering.
I pass a busy looking Ray Favre selling DrWimp books for charity, then I spy Mike Glover from Icon Technology. Has he been to the Dave Holden dance academy? No, but he has sold out of everything inside 2 hours and is well chuffed, it seems that Techwriter and Easiwriter customers are delighted that development on the two packages has re-started. I also spy Martin Wuerthner with the new version of Artworks2 that includes dynamic clipping and looks very very good, next to him is Steffen Huber who has just launched DVD-Burn, as well as continuing development on CD-Burn, he too looks to be having a good show.
I walk past the huge central Quercus stand, selling lots of back issues of Acorn User and Acorn Publisher, as well as board games and all sorts of other things and head past CJE micros and Fourth Dimension who once again seem to have bought the entire shop with them. If there is anything RISC OS related that CJE don't have I will be amazed. Opposite them are Etc systems with a range of RISC OS spares then we have Argonet Internet Services and then IC Software with their range of printed manuals for RISC OS applications.
Next I bump into R-Comp who are doing brisk business in both software and hardware, the new Grapevine2 seems to be a popular purchase. I then swing past the massive charity stall, pausing only to pick up a Cambridge Z88, complete with link cable and PipeDream manual, for a measly £5 (even better when I get a chance to try it later it actually works). I spy Paul Beverley on the Archive Publications stand selling the latest Archive CD, as well as subscriptions. Next along are RISCOS Ltd who have a wide range of machines all running RISC OS Select or RISC OS Adjust. Paul Middleton was doing a healthy trade in RISC OS Select ROM upgrades for existing machines, both real and Virtual, and was continually busy.
Next to them were Liquid Silicon, who had a MicroDigital Omega complete with fully working network card (which are now shipping to customers). Along from them were the MatchMagical Software Company, then Brian Jaques with his web writing CD, a tutorial for HTML designers of all ages and experience levels. Then there was Kate Crennell of Fortran friends showing a wide range of software, and next door were Brain Games. We had a brief chat and were able to sort out a CD writing problem that they had been having.
The next people I saw were the Arm Club, Ralph Sillet told me that the Arm Club Midlands show would be on again this year and promised to come round later with an information pack, which he did. Aemulor and Cino DVD were on display on the next stand, with rumours of a new version of ADFS in the offing for the Iyonix, apparently the current one isn't fast enough to play back DVD movies, and this has delayed the release of Cino. Opposite them was EFF, I did wave at Edward but he was busy with a customer, no doubt exploring the huge range of RISC OS fonts available. I then got badly side tracked by the X-Ample stand, not due to the impending release of Impression X, but due to the build your own Enigma machine kit which had the geek in me jumping up and down, regretfully I forgot to buy one before the show closed and now I will have to e-mail them for a price.
Finally we came round to the biggest stand of the show Castle Technology, who were showing the new Iyonix Panther which was the same machine in a new case, with the same old price. Castle were also muttering about a big order for between 10,000 and 100,000 machines for a customer outside the normal desktop market (as far as I have been able to tell this seems to be for set top boxes that don't run RISC OS). Castle were doing a brisk trade in updates as I saw a number of machines being carried over to the stand to have the mods made to the motherboard. Also on the stand were OreganoUK showing the latest version of Oregano2.
I then headed back to our stand and spent the rest of the day looking after customers. I did get one shock when I was told the show shut at 6pm, no, it must be a wind up, but it wasn't. So once the show shut we stuffed the contents of the till into the laptop case and headed for the hotel and well deserved beer. Then we had to find some dinner, so we walked to the Holmfield Arms, which used to be a nice Beefeater type restaurant and was always heaving, but wait the decor's changed and its empty! We bump into R-Comp who have just had dinner and are not impressed, we take their advice and "high tail" it out without ordering. We walk back to the hotel and all jump in the Shogun. The theory is that we can drive into Wakefield and find a restaurant, ho ho. We don't find any restaurants, but we do find plenty of take-aways, as well as loads of town centre pubs with bouncers on the door. We then spend another half hour driving around trying to find a restaurant. Then I get a smart idea, why don't I use the locator service on my new 3G phone to find the nearest Indian, answer, because the service doesn't work in Wakefield, grrr.
Eventually we end up at the Red Kite on the way back out of Wakefield towards the M1, it's not bad at all, but we only just make dinner before the restaurant shuts. We head back to the hotel, Graeme goes to bed, but Dave Holden and I go to the bar again...
Sunday at the show is considerably quieter, although everyone still seems to do good business, with everyone that I spoke to reporting takings to be up on last year. I do get a chance to so a quick video walkround which I have included on this issue of RISCWorld. I don't get time to attend any of the talks, but both Castle and RISCOS Ltd were giving talks on the future of RISC OS, I wonder which of the possible futures we will end up with? John Cartmell gives a talk about Quercus and "what our Acorn's have become", well quite a few of them seem to have become items on the charity stand.
Before we know it it's nearly 4 o'clock and the customers have vanished so we start packing up, and finishing quickly, manage to annoy Stuart Tyrrell yet again with more "helpful" suggestions. Then it's time to say our goodbyes and head to Burger King at the services for some food. We then finally split up and I head back down the M1, pausing only for more rubber neckers, "oh look a car on fire, lets stop next to it!", an abandoned suitcase in the fast lane causing a 45 minute tail back and the usual collection of roadworks. I finally get home a little before 10pm and then unload. Of course next day I have to process the huge pile of credit card receipt and cheques...look I've been to the Dave Holden dance academy as well!