Interop '94 Atlanta
I was a volunteer for this show. They worked my butt off, but I
probably added $5K to my salary if I ever have to deal with the
physical layer. It was more physical labor than I'd done in a really
long time and the days sort of run together. Some of my timing may be
off, and I have forgotten or purposely left out many of my activities.
I drove up from Gainesville Tuesday September 6th with Andy Wilcox
of Harbor Development. On the way there we decided to use his
cellphone to check our reservations. The person on the other end was
slow and not terribly helpful and told us we did NOT have a room.
Andy was rather surprised, since he'd recieved email from Interop
staff telling him he did have a room, so we called Elizabeth
Rose (volunteer coordinator) to find out what was wrong. She was
confused as well and told us that, to the best of her knowledge, he
was not assigned a room.
So, we checked into the Comfort Inn (where the volunteers were
housed) and reserved the room through Sunday. We would have reserved
it for longer, but they were already booked solid with attendees. We
figured we could straighten out who was paying for the room the next
morning face-to-face with all the guilty parties in one room.
The Comfort Inn was renamed that night to the DisComfort Inn. There
was no dresser to store our week's worth of clothing. The
shower/faucet selector in the bath was lying in several pieces on the
edge of the tub and took some fiddling and probing to operate.
We showed up ready to work Wednesday morning. They gave us two
T-shirts and a hip-pack. The last item came in real handy.
They decided to pay for Andy's room, but would assign him a roommate
(not me, because I was a walk-in, and they hadn't planned to support
That day I got drafted by Gerry Lawrence, another G'ville resident
and friend, to pull fiber-optic cable. He was chief of one of the
specials crews that were managed by John Kida. We did special runs
from the NOC to 157 and 160, press rooms. I learned how to spool the
cable off and make figure eights. Since this was a temporary
installation, there was lots of duct tape, and experience of the
volunteers who had come before us revealed that the corn-starch
packing peanuts wedged between the brick facade in the hallway would
secure fiber-optic cable to the walls just fine. I found a use for
the new hip-pack, stuffing it with wire-ties and packing peanuts.
``Captain, I canna give you more cable''
Later that day we were assigned to make the Ballroom pull. Gerry
and I surveyed the run and found a set of pipes next to a freight
elevator that ran all the way down to the exhibition floor. We
figured we'd drop the cable down the pipes, and then hand it to lift
operators to be strung along the ceiling, through a hole, along more
ceiling and finally to a pedestal on the show floor. Then we
discovered we had no more cable. We hung out, jobless, until we got a
call to come to the NOC to break open a crate and assemble its
Electrohome Saga: day 1
When we got there the crate was missing (much to the surprise of
Chris, the NOC-guy), and its contents were leaning against the walls
of the rubbernecker containment pen (a little room made of panels to
allow visitors to view the NOC but not get in the way. It was used
for tours during the Expo). We were missing several vital pieces of
connecting hardware --- nuts and bolts --- and figured they were in
the missing crate. We assembled as much of it as we could without the
missing bolts, and let the NOC-guy chase down the crate.
The next day we showed up to finish assembling the device (an
Electrohome projection monitor donated by Quarterdeck). A few more
anvil cases had shown up containing other pieces of the system (such
as the $28K projector, the first-surface mirror, and the screen), but
the bolts were still missing. We came to the conclusion that the
wankers in the warehouse had just shipped it without the bolts. I
ended up calling Electrohome for Dan Sweeny (the Quarterdeck dude who
talked his boss into donating) and finding out the bolt sizes from one
of the tech dudes in California. This information was given to one of
the NOC dudes for an after-lunch hardware store run.
The dreaded Ballroom pull
We finally had enough cable to do the Ballroom run. We decided on a
different route than the one Gerry and I had surveyed the night
before, terminating at the nearer press room instead of an
exhibition-floor pedestal. The new route had been surveyed by another
fiber team and turned out to be a bit shorter and easier, however it
was not easy by ANY stretch of the imagination.
problems we encountered were:
That was the end of the disasters and once we got 200' of fiber on
the first floor, it was a boring process of tying the cable to the
ceiling and threading through walls. All-in-all it took us entirely
too long to make the run (3-4 hours instead of 1.5). After some food
I went with Gerry to survey the Ped75/169W (Radio Technology For Manyana)
- blocked pipe above the second level ceiling (had to poke through
with a handy piece of pipe).
- piling 200' of cable in the space between 2nd ceiling and 3rd
floor. (it had caught on the blockage).
- Clueless local employees stepping on 200' ($400?) of figure-8ed
fiber, probably destroying connectivity. (had to cut it off and spool off another 200').
- pulling the end of the fiber off the spool. We felt the yank,
but didn't interpret it properly. When the guy left and fiber just
started to fall due to gravity, we resumed feeding and I got 3 stories
of fiber piled on my head. We had to feed it through the rest of the
way and carry the fiber back up to try again.
Room 169, RTFM
We found a somewhat simple route, but our bosses thought it too
complicated and lamented the fact that there was no hole in the wall
to the exhibit floor so tantalizingly visible through the enourmous
glass windows. They left us in order to plot in secret.
Murph had rolled in with Stephanie and needed a place to sleep.
Andy moved in with Kent (who evidently had a suite at the Marriot) and
Murph moved into his old bed. Andy kept the key, though, because he
left all his stuff in our room.
By noon, the fiber-pulling team had ``discovered'' a convenient hole
in the wall to run cable through for the Ped75/169W run. Gerry
Lawrence rode the lift to tie it to the girders while I spectated.
After the ballroom hell I was ready for a change. I linked up with Helen
Garey (another Gator) who was on the fiber team. They figured I was
the perfect person to tell them where the ends of the fiber were,
since I had run it. I showed the team where the press-room end of the
ballroom run was and proceeded upstairs with Ti (Mortisse), one
crazy lady, to start terminating the other end.
Against orders from higher-ups, she trained me to terminate using
hot-melt ST connectors. I was slow, but much more trainable than some
of the people they had trained earlier in the week (they had time to
spare back then). I actually did about 2 connectors worth of work (6
connectors per end) by the time we were done. I got a T-shirt for
being part of the fiber termination team! I escorted them to the 169W
end of the RTFM run and left them for dinner.
I met up with the fiber team after dinner and ran around doing prep
work. It was really simple. I pulled down the fiber using a pole,
attached the bottom of the bungee cord to something heavy, stripped
off 1.5' of the outermost insulation, and arranged a workspace for the
actual terminating crew. We were running low on supplies so we
decided not to prep all the ends because unprotected fiber is pretty
My Kingdom for some Ped keys
Since I didn't know how to do anything other than hot-melt ST
terminators, I got assigned with Bill to do App cluster 1. We traced
the fiber under some locked doors and called security. We finally
traced it through a hole in the bottom of the wall and discovered that
the end went into the pedestal at App cluster 1. We spent around an
hour waiting for Ped keys and when we finally got them it was for the
wrong type. I headed home to make sure that Murph would be able to
get into our room.
I felt somewhat guilty because the fiber team had given me a
T-shirt, and I hadn't really terminated much fiber. I teamed up with
Ti, and together we terminated both ends of the 367/NOC run, and the
NOC end of the NOC/laser-on-roof run. Ti left the last bit of the
NOC/roof run to me because she had plans for Saturday night. Helen
and friends showed up after a while to help me finish.
At some point I was informed that the bolts Electrohome I had
started assembling on Wednesday were finally here. I grabbed another
volunteer and had him hold the projector while I bolted it to the
frame. We put the front and screen on and, viola, an assembled
projector! We had no cables (power/video) because they had
disappeared somewhere. However, the bugger was assembled.
Uh-oh. The room I was sharing with Murph (and Andy, sort of) had
expired. We had to move out because it had been reserved long ago for
some conference attendee. Since Ger's roommate had disappeared, we
moved into his room (a single with a fold-out couch). It was crowded,
but it mostly had a shower (the shower had a habit of losing water
It was nearing the opening of the show. Vendors were moving in to
connect their booths. Things were definitely getting hectic. I
avoided trouble ticket duty like the plague.
Because I had assembled the first Electrohome projection monitor, I
got drafted to help assemble the second. There was a little confusion
with some tools that had been misplaced by my helper from the night
before, and we were short a few bolts, but one of the blue-collars on
the exhibition floor had a box full of the right kind and we were in
Now all we needed was a proper display card that would accept the
RCA jack from the VCR. DOH! I was up till 3am with Alicia and
Dan trying to figure out what to do without this card. I finally left
them because I couldn't do anything else to help. Fortunately, Dan
Sweeny managed to scam one on Monday and the VCR was running Monday
It's the beginning of the Expo. Time to trick-or-treat.
Trick-or-treating used to be a simple affair. You'd walk up to a
booth and look at what they had. The keychains and pens were in a
little bowl and you grabbed one and put it in your bag. Then you went
on to the next booth.
Now it's more complicated. They don't just want you to have their
name on your bottle-opener, they want you to actually listen to their
spiel. Many vendors are still slack: ``Here, have a pin, have a pen,
have a stuffed animal'', but others are sadly lacking. In this
respect I think Compaq wins worst of show. See Wendnesday for
I showed up late again (3am took its toll) and got drafted by John
Kida. It seems he and Gerry and a few other guys had been up fairly
late Sunday night trying to align the lasers between the conference
center and the Peachtree Westin. They had very little success. They
suspected a misalignment of the beams. He and I went onto the roof of
the conference center and pulled that laser down. We then stood in
line for a taxi to take us to the Peachtree Westin and pulled its
laser off the roof. We then packed both lasers for shipment.
Hopefully they'd be back by Wednesday morning so they could serve till
Friday. In the mean time the applications cluster in the Westin would
have to live with the T1 line.
I wandered into Net Services West and got immediately grabbed for
NOC errand running. It was the first time since Friday or Saturday
that I got a NOC pass. I was assigned to work with Kristen (sp?), an
attractive woman who did WWW stuff, and evidently was quite a wild
partier (I heard legends about some wild stuff at the Novell party).
I never got a chance to hear her side of the story because I was also
supposed to help Jeff, and he grabbed me to close out trouble tickets.
I spent several hours walking from place to place trying to locate
the booth contact, or even somebody who knew what the problem was (a
lot of the booth droids have NO idea how the network works). I also
got a little trick-or-treating done, but not much. I did expend a few
slack points and got a colorful GTE T-shirt.
By early afternoon I had sunk my teeth into one problem where the
Press Room was unable to use one of its IP addresses because it was
conflicting with another MAC address. Richard Thomas tracked it down
eventually to an unused card in some piece of equipment. Pity it was
mostly over my head.
The last day of the floor show. I had to make a killing on toys, or
I'd be woefully upstaged by some other volunteers. I had to interrupt
my hunt to attend a 1pm meeting of all volunteers.
In this meeting our fearless leaders informed us that at 4pm we were
to swarm the floor and pull all the net connection tails. I became
something like a captain of my group, but not exactly. It was my
responsibility to get tools from Net Services West and take them to my
I resumed trick-or-treating, and, in the last 30 minutes before I
had to retrieve tools, I scored a UB water toy, an HP T-shirt, a
flashlight, and another T-shirt with baseball cap. It took luck and
timing. For instance: I walked into one booth where they had just
finished the presentation. One of the booth droids was putting the
little info cards on the seats while all the cattle were lining up to
get their rewards. I grabbed a card off a seat, got at the end of the
line and started writing like mad. By the time I got to the front of
the line, the card was full, and I scored the T-shirt and cap without
having to listen to some spiel. There were 3 people behind me who
were pulling the same trick. We smiled at each other
BTW, UB (formerly Ungerman Bass) required that you sit through a
silly videotape that was loosely integrated with a live narrator.
They had a guy on the videotape who would talk to the live dude. Wow,
I'm so entertained. It was silly. More importantly, it was all
packaging! There was absolutely no information content in this
presentation. I walked out of there with a water puzzle, a pen, and
3:30pm came around, and I had to retrieve tools. I had instructed
my team to meet me at Net Services East (since we were pulling tails
in part of the East Hall). None of them were there. So, I drafted Ti
and this other guy to help. Eventually enough of the team showed up
that when 4pm rolled around we were on our way to pull tails. On the
way a guy from Mountain Rescue (a file backup company) threw
water-bottles at us. I caught one making my total water-bottles for
the show six.
It was a zoo. The loudspeaker announced that the show was over and
immediately a zillion people swarmed the floor. Blue-collars appeared
to disassemble booths. Volunteers ran around with hook-poles pulling
tails and coiling cable. I completely lost track of my team, which
wasn't a severe problem because Kent Phelps was the one with the radio
and he took over calling in the pedestals as we worked.
Even after the show was over I managed to scam a T-shirt. I saw
some guys packing T-shirts away and I said ``I'll save you the trouble
of hauling that one home''.
At some point I put down my notepad to coil cable and forgot to pick
it back up. This time was different from all the other times I forgot
because I never found it again. I guess I'll have to buy another pad
and rebuild my phone database. I also had the e-mail address of some
guy at Symantec (they have a C++ compiler for the Mac. It sucks, but
then so does every other C++ compiler in existence). Damn. If you
found it, mail it to me (snail address in my .plan).
By 5:55pm tail-pulling was over. I don't know if we actually got
them all, but we were declared done. We all scattered back to our
rooms to prepare for the volunteer appreciation dinner at the Westin.
Before dinner there was drinks. I was used to places that had
Pilsner Urquell and Guinness. This hotel had Yellow, Yellow Light,
Yellow N.A., and a little Moosehead. Needless to say they ran out of
Moosehead real quick. I had to be a beer snob so I refused to
drink anything other than Moosehead.
Finally dinner was ready and we all piled into the dining room. There
was salad, bread, chicken/prime rib/vegetarian main course, wine,
cheesecake dessert (urgh, I don't like cheesecake, but it does store
well so it was usually given as dessert). Then the speeches began.
I personally despise appreciation speeches and thank-you speeches,
even when they are deserved, and especially when they are for
me. Fortunately I was just a little wheel in the machine and didn't
have to endure public scrutiny. There was lots of frattish behavior
(``hoot hoot hoot hoot''). John the Van Man told us we were all crazy
(and got applause for it, of course). Somebody got a bunch of water
glasses poured over his head, football team & coach -style. I got
bored to death and two magnum-sized Interop coffee mugs.
We went up to the SunDial lounge on the 72nd floor of the Westin
where a bottle of Becks costs $6.50 and the waitress hands your change
to the wrong person. We eventually took a $20 cab ride to Buckhead
and hung out at Oxygen where the fanciest beer they have is Molsen and
it costs $5 to get on the dance floor (+$2 if you're under 21. We had
a co-ed from Utah with us who reminded me that there were intelligent,
moderately attractive women who vaguely understood computers. All I
need to do is find one for myself a few years from now.)
Did lunch with Bobby and Cheryl, almost went tubing, read part of
the book I bought from the bookstore, and rode home with Andy.
What an experience. I have learned that one of the things that
makes me happy is knowing what I must do and knowing that I can do it.
I heard that there were around 200 volunteers. I only got to work
with maybe 20 of them. I only learned the first names of ~10 people.
There were so many things going on that I never even heard about.
It's a strange feeling.
most of the fiber termination crew in front of
the Fibertron booth
some of the termination crew at the volunteer
appreciation dinner. take two
UF dudes at the dinner
Robert Forsman / <email@example.com>
University of Florida
Department of Computer and Information Sciences