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Memories of TechEd over the years (#TEE12)

In a few weeks, I’ll be attending my 21st Tech*Ed in Europe.  Several times in the past few years I’ve vowed to stop going, but each time the invitation lands, I end up not being able to resist – partly because some new MS technology is imminent and the chance to get information from those close to the development is worth the punt, partly because despite everything – I hope that MS have learned from last time.  The fact I’m last man standing from 1994 might just come into play a bit  is neither here nor there as some of my twitter friends will deny!

Being a bit of maven, I have retained all the bags (no kids, big loft!) from the conferences and @eileenb recently published a Photo Gallery for your delectation!  Digging them out and taking the photos brought back some memories that I thought I’d get down – maybe to share, maybe for my own future forgetfulness…



Bournemouth 1994

A chance encounter at a Microsoft event led to an invitation to Tech*Ed that year.  The bag came with about 4” of A4 books, containing print outs of all the session PowerPoint slides.  It weighed a ton!  They were perforated too, so the goal was to select the sessions, and tear out the relevant pages and build your schedule.  The conference was 3 days (although the final day ran short), and is still one of the best!  Highlights that year were:
  • The Counterfeit Stones as the party headliners
  • Eric Wells on building an EIS in Excel (bear in mind this was Excel from Office 4.2).  Four sessions (IIRC) of well-planned presentation with full coding (which I transcribed!) to build a complete system from database to graphical controls on the spreadsheet to manage pivot tables and charts thereof.  Superb.  And I used it at two different employers to avoid building “reporting” systems to waste paper.
  • The Chicago beta.  This was 16 months before Windows 95 launched, and in the days of tightly controlled technical beta programmes (not the millions of Consumer Previews we see today).  The sessions were held in the theatre on the pier to better control things, and strong NDA’s were issued and required before you got in!
  • The conference organisers were certain we’d lowered the average age in Bournemouth by quite a few years
  • Microsoft UK hired the Sega centre for an evening of free games


Hamburg 1995
Considered an essential in the diary after 1994, this was really disappointing. Microsoft rested on their laurels and used local staff to present on subjects in which they were clearly beginners.  In one case a presentation on coding Access forms like an expert the presenter could not even get the development environment started on the PC – many walked out.
Worse, the convention centre allowed smoking indoors, and the place stank.  As an asthma sufferer this was not one to enjoy.
Access 7.0 was still in beta, and many delegates came home with a stack of 3.5” floppy disks!


Nice 1996
The previous summer Microsoft set up focus groups and worked hard to determine what had gone wrong in Hamburg.  This Tech*Ed demonstrated they’d listened, and listened well.  A return to form.  The party set new standards with a complete fair built inside the dining hall for the evening.   I think this was the first year of MCP exams, and I took my Win95 exam in about 20 minutes based only on my beta testing and use since going live – no studying at all.


Nice 1997, 1998
By now Tech*Ed was becoming a fixture in my calendar, and well worth going.  These two years were great fun, and great weather.  The parties were held outdoors and had the SAS Band SAS Band in ’97, and the Royal Family (a Queen tribute act) in ’98.  Great gigs both.  The conference content was good with labs appearing (using VMware workstation but that memory may be false as it was launched in 99) along with smart card operation of the Comms Centre machines.
In ’98 the World Cup was being held in France and Tech*Ed was semi-final week.  On what was proudly called (by Microsoft) the largest TV screen in Europe hoards of delegates watched the matches: Brazil beating Netherlands on penalties in front of several hundred orange shirts; and France beating Croatia in normal time.  After the second match, Nice went mad and it simply wasn’t worth going back to the hotel.  I spent a couple of hours wandering the city soaking up the atmosphere, the roads were log jammed.  One particular memory was someone walking his dog down the roofs and bonnets of the cars in the jam!


Amsterdam 1999, 2000
Exams were on again, and I elected to do my NT4 Server and Advanced Server so as to protect my upgrade options for Windows 2000 certification.  The exams were notable (for me) as a server crash meant I had a 10 minute gap whilst they tried to get me to restart (which being an adaptive exam was not something I wanted!).  They recovered the setup, and I was done in 45 minutes and out to enjoy Amsterdam before the conference began the next day.
Tech*Ed 2000 saw the launch by Compaq of the iPaq handheld (the first “i” device?).  There was a significant 30% or so discount and I was one of many who queued to collect their pre-order as soon as possible.


Barcelona 2001, 2002, 2003
A hot summery Barcelona might have been a good idea, but rush hour metro followed by coach transfer to the venue did not make a great start to the day.  Being way out of town, there was nothing to leave the centre for either.  The event was growing and by now was a popular event across Europe.  Tech*Ed 2003 was the 10th anniversary event (although by my reckoning it was the 10th event, the 9th anniversary!) but the party included at the Olympic Park included all the artists from the previous 9 events.  Quite a night.
Very kindly, as I was one of only 7 who’d been to all the Tech*Ed Microsoft funded my event (although the benefit went to my employer!)


Amsterdam 2004, 2005
It’s all beginning to blur now, but amongst the dateable memories is the Portugal v Greece semi-final in the Euro 2004 tournament that was on the party night.  I watched the Tim Burton film Big Fish in one of the lecture halls, and went through to watch the match which was in the final minutes of extra time when Greece scored.  Felt like I’d saved all the bother and tension of watching the previous 105 minutes!


Barcelona 2006, 2007, 2008 (but now in winter!)
By now Microsoft had been running an Exchange event which had morphed into the IT Forum.  Now IT Forum joined the Tech*Ed fold and became a second week of the event.  So there was now a Tech*Ed Developer and a Tech*Ed IT Forum.  As I dabbled heavily in the dev world I elected to go to both.  As sessions were so difficult to schedule (so many clashes) my goal was get a lot of IT Pro stuff from the Dev week and increase the value of the conference.   The conferences were colour coded (Orange for Dev, Blue for IT Pro), with Green for signage common to both weeks.  This led to this UI abomination:

In one of these years Andrew Cheeseman (in charge of the network and comms centre at the conference) had to do his “How we did it” talk on the Friday in a tutu as he bet the delegates they could not bring the Wi-Fi down….

In 2007 Bletchley Park ran a “can you beat Colossus” competition to celebrate the completion of the rebuild.  This took place during Tech*Ed – see Colossus Competition.  A Siemens Lorenz machine would be used to encode a message, it would be sent in Morse wirelessly for anyone to intercept.  The aim was to see if you could beat Colossus (under the late Tony Sale) in decrypting the message.  Due to reception issues in England, the Colossus team were late getting the message and were beaten to the decrypt by Joachim Schüth.  His work demonstration that the 1944 Colossus Mark 2 had an equivalent clock speed of 5.8MHz.


Berlin 2009, 2010
Tech*Ed moved to a new city for the first time in nearly a decade, and we all headed for Berlin in the year (and week) that the Berlin wall 20th anniversary took place.  Die Mauerfall 20th Anniversary was a damp, but spectacular night.  It was also the first time Tech*Ed had an end of day keynote.  Sadly the keynote was totally uncompelling to the audience (see my post Tech*Ed KeyNote & how not to do them) – it was a presentation to the suits in the USA, not the geeks in the room.  So many left early (camera shots were fixed to ensure that the walking heads were not in the foot of the shot!).  With Die Mauerfall to go to as well, I think a large minority had left before it finished.
In 2010 Microsoft repeated the keynote mistake – TEE10 keynote error and the conference, quite incredibly, pretty much ignored Windows Phone 7 which had just launched.  If you note that WP7 is largely pro-sumer at best and not an enterprise tool, this may come as less of a surprise. 
2010 was also notable for a substantial effort by Microsoft to make the event break even.  The bag was a big surprise, the fittings, the refreshments – everything shrieked budget at me.


So, what for Amsterdam 2012?
I have high hopes from the messages I have had about content and structure of the week.  Also, given the timing of Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 I have high hopes for the technical content.  This year has seen the return of an application to plan your conference on your mobile device (including iOS kit), so the signs are good.

But you can be sure I will be tweeting my impressions at My Twitter feed  and blogging here!

By P J Bryant

Ramblings of a freelance IT Consultant working for some nice SME's, large organisations, resellers and the usual friends and family! Bit of

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