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 me).

Pulling Cable

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 contents.

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.

Among the 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) fiber run.

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.

Split Ends

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.

More fiber

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 vulnerable.

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 pressure randomly).

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 business.

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 afternoon.


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 details.

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 group.

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 conspiratorially.

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 nothing else.

Tail Pulling

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 / <>

University of Florida
Department of Computer and Information Sciences

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