On October 1 and 2, engineers, marketing executives, and journalists filled the Hyatt Regency conference center near the San Francisco airport for the DVD-Audio Forum. A long afternoon of technical lectures left us numb. "Therapy for insomniacs" is the only way to describe the seemingly endless Power Point presentations. Microsoft's Power Point seems to be the standard format at all large gatherings, and it's as soporific as hearing a professor read from a textbook.
Day Four at AES. The crowds were somewhat thinner, but the convention floor was still buzzing, still incredibly busy right up to 4pm, the official break-down time. I spent a couple of hours strolling the floor with Vacuum Tube Valley's Eric Barbour, who works another side of the thermionic street as an application engineer for Svetlana, the Portola Valley, CA-based importer of Russian-made tubes. Svetlana will soon be making the ubiquitous 12AX7 and other popular tubes in its St. Petersburg factory, he told me. Instability in Russia has hindered production recently, but Eric said all such problems have been solved. He also mentioned that VTV has moved to new offices and should soon be published quarterly. I stood by as he made a sales call at the Millennia Media booth.
James Bongiorno needs your help. The legendary electronics designer, whose pioneering work with fully complementary solid-state amplifiers has become part of engineering's standard lexicon, is battling liver cancer.
Saturday, September 26, thousands of enthusiastic audio-savvy attendees began swarming through the massive cavern of the Moscone Center's North Hall in San Francisco. They will continue to swarm until late Tuesday, September 29, the last day of the 105th Audio Engineering Society Convention. The convention has attracted hundreds of companies whose products are extravagantly displayed in the huge space beneath the Yerba Buena Gardens. Demonstrations of new products and technologies also take place in smaller rooms off the main floor. Research papers are being presented in meetings throughout the four-day event.
CD audio recorders are becoming affordable and more available. Philips' CDR880 (reviewed by Wes Phillips in the current issue of Stereophile) will be in dealers' showrooms soon at a suggested retail price of $649. Pioneer will also have an inexpensive recorder on the market---the PD-R555RW, which will reportedly sell for $599. These two---and others that will no doubt follow---are welcome relief from the four-figure machines that have dominated the recordable audio CD niche.
Distressed Carver Corporation announced August 31 that founder Bob Carver has signed a letter of intent to return as chairman and CEO of the company he founded 20 years ago. The letter also spells out conditions for a possible merger of Carver and Sunfire Corporation as early as 18 months from now. Sunfire, manufacturer of the highly regarded Sunfire power amplifiers, is Bob Carver's privately held company.
A few years ago, when media pundits began discussing the possible ramifications of 500 channels of television, the concept of "narrowcasting" quickly became the buzzword du jour. The idea was that programming in the future would be aimed at increasingly better-defined markets. Rather than an all-sports channel, an astute broadcaster would operate multiple channels devoted to individual sports: an all-basketball channel, for example, or round-the-clock motor sports. Advertising tailored for a tightly defined market might prove more efficient than its shotgun-effect equivalent.
Some optimists in Washington, on Wall Street, and elsewhere predicted that the Asian economic crisis wouldn't reach the United States. But in late August, the financial flu infecting that part of the world, and the ongoing monetary instability in Russia, finally affected North America. As of Friday, August 28th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was hovering just above 8000, down from a record high of 9337.97 on July 17th. The market decline has affected the whole economy---traditional industries as well as hot-ticket ventures like Internet stocks.
The Federal Communications Commission is fighting an epidemic called "microradio." The agency has closed 250 unlicensed stations in the past year, most of them low-powered urban pip-squeaks with less than 100W of power and broadcast radii of 10 miles or less. The typical microradio station offers an off-center perspective on local, national, and world events to a listenership of a few hundred people, and loses money in the process.