Tech-Ed 2007: Day 1

It’s the end of the first day at Tech Ed 2007. I flew into Orlando yesterday, taking the 6 am flight from Seattle. We flew through Atlanta and landed in Florida only a little over an hour past schedule. Not a bad experience -- given the state of our transportation industry.

I tried to register at the conference that same night, but the main hall was already closed down by the time I got there. That meant I first entered the cavernous Tech-ED convention hall on Monday morning. I found myself in a vast space that seemingly had no end. Huge glass windows towered above me on my right. Thousands of people milled back and forth, congregating around tables laden with breakfast food and coffee.

In search of the registration booth, I turned left and descended a stairwell. At the bottom of the escalator, I entered the main hall. All at once I realized the cavernous reaches behind me were only a sort of entrance way, a foyer, as it were, that one must cross before entering the main establishment. Here the central aisle was wider than the lot on which my house stood. On each side the room stretched off incomprehensible distances to a wall that towered several stories high.

It was easy to check in, but more difficult to find the booth where I was to work. Before me I could see endless stretches of colored booths. A huge block of them to my left was dressed in yellow, to my right were more decked in green, and at the far end of the hall a familiar shade of blue wavered in the distance like a mirage. A gigantic sign above the blue booths listed the areas covered in this one section. Among the names spelled out on that distance billboard was the single cryptic word “DEV.” That sounded like home to me. It would be the place where developers would congregate.

As I started walking toward my destination, I immediately regretted my choice of nice dress shoes. What one needed to navigate the hall was not stiff polished brown leather, but a good pair of running shoes. Fortunately, there were way stations containing precious morsels of breakfast food to sustain one during the long hike.

Like all members of the development world, I assume that life revolves around compilers. Minor applications like office suites and operating systems are, after all, little more than effluvia produced as byproducts of the all important compilation process. Browsers, games, financial applications – all of these are important only because they help support the production of compilers. I am content with a world view based on the simple assertion that the computer industry would not exist if it weren’t for compilers.

Given my mental landscape, I found it a bit depressing to find that in all the vast reaches of the Orlando Convention Center, only half of one booth was given over to the C# team. Around me were hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of other booths laid out in checkerboard patterns in the fast spaces of the endless convention hall. What were they doing at all those booths if they weren't thinking about compilers? How could people so completely lose perspective about what was truly important?

Fortunately it was not long before customers began to show up at our booth and distract me from these worries. They were the usual haggard lot of ill dressed and poorly groomed developers who come year after year to ask questions about the next version of the all important compiler. Being ill dressed and ill groomed myself, I felt right at home, and they seemed to feel at home with me. it was a happy state of affairs.

As was usual and customary, I had no idea as to how to begin. At a loss for words, I began typing code into the editor and hoping that somebody found it interesting:

var query = from c in db.customers….

To others this may look like nonsense, but developers live for such arcana. Before I knew it folks were gathering around, asking questions, uttering yelps of delight at the sight of cool new features, and groaning out loud as they wondered how they would ever master yet another onslaught of new technology. And as we chattered away happily about truly important things like lambda expressions and extension methods, the rest of the vast hall filled with inconsequential effluvia melted away, and my world became for a time the small booth were truly important things were being discussed.

kick it on

Comments (5)

  1. You’ve been kicked (a good thing) – Trackback from

  2. Jeremy McGee says:

    Hey Charlie

    Wow, in this age of blogs and podcasts doing booth duty seems like it’s from a whole other century.

    Still, I recall that getting feedback from other developers was the most important thing when demonstrating our compiler product at shows in the mid 90s. I’d often come back from trade shows buzzing with new ideas on how to present and educate our product. It was a great shortcut to understand what folks found difficult.

    And yes, I recall too that choosing the right footwear was vital. So, too, is finding a place with decent food that’s *outside* the conference hall so you can "decompress" at lunchtime.


    — J

  3. Charlie’s got a great post of his first day’s experience in the TechEd expo. Looks like Amanda is still

  4. ccalvert says:


    Yea, I guess booth duty is a little old fashioned, but I’m really glad I did it in this case. Listening to what developers are thinking, and seeing how they react to various features, is really helpful. I hang around developers every day at work, so I can start thinking that I know what they are about. But the developers here on the C# team are shaped by the fact that they work on a compiler, or on the IDE. They don’t do the same work that a typical Visual Studio user does on an average day. So its good to just hear over and over again from users of the product what interests them, and how they spend their days.

    – Charlie

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