Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference kicks off in just over two weeks. If you want to get a good idea of what the conference is like, Jeff LaMarche’s guide is a good place to start.
This will be my 12th WWDC. The first one I went to was in 1999, when the conference was much smaller and took place in San Jose.
I was feeling kind of nostalgic, and thought it might be fun to come up with a list of ten things that used to be part of WWDC but no longer are. Come along with me on a random trip down memory lane of WWDCs past.
Beer Bash at the Apple Campus Believe it or not, Apple used to charter what must have been every tour bus in the Bay Area and ship some 3000+ geeks over to Apple HQ for a beer bash and concert in the parklike area in the middle of Apple’s campus. This was a highlight of the week…you got to visit the Apple Company Store, drink beer with 3000 of your best friends, go to various plugfests and other interest areas, and of course, drink beer? Why did Apple put an end to this…it should be obvious…it was a logistical nightmare, and once WWDC moved to SF and the attendance kept growing, it became ridiculous…with several hour waits to board busses and get into the campus. These days, Apple holds the party at Yerba Buena gardens right across the street.
Movie Night One of the nights of the conference used to be devoted to Movie Night. Apple would project a first run movie on the big screen in the main hall, and provide popcorn and snacks. It was a lot of fun, but in an increasingly packed week, I suspect they decided it just didn’t make as much sense to keep the tradition going. I don’t recall when they stopped, but certainly before the move to SF in 2003.
Major-league swag giveaways Every year, you would get some type of laptop carrying case (wanna bet this year it will be an iPad case?) However, Apple has really topped themselves in the past, with expensive and desirable giveaways like the brand new iSight cameras back in 2003 and a really nice leather OS X logoed jacket in (I think) 2001.
Printed conference guides These amazing gizmos were made from processed tree carcasses, and contained a list of sessions and logistical information. Of special note were foldable grids and maps for each day’s sessions the would slide into the back of your badge holder, making quick reference checks super easy. These days, it’s an iPhone app and we’re all better off, but 2000 years from now, will WWDC archeologists be able to run an iPhone app? I think not!
Conference Expo Apple used to have a mini Macworld Expo-like show floor the first three days of WWDC. Companies with a development or IT focus would actually exhibit at small booths. This was actually a really great way to find out about obscure tools and applications, as well as score swag, and it was a shame when the plug was pulled.
Jamba Juice All the free Jamba Juice you could drink. Unless I was blind or am going senile, I didn’t see them last year. I’m guessing it is cheaper to provide the pre-packed drinks and snacks.
Birds of a Feather Birds of a Feather sessions were “out of band” semi informal conference sessions about relatively obscure topics where aficionados of, say, Ruby, GUI scripting, or QA would gather and geek out. Usually held after hours or sometimes during lunch, they were great ways for there ot be coverage of topics for which there wouldn’t be enough interest for a full-on conference session.
Gaming Area Apple used to bring out a few dozen high-end Macs, give them big monitors and gaming mice as well as a few of the best new Mac games, and let you play. It was like a big, floating all-day LAN party, and if you had 15 minutes free, you could relax by fragging a few noobs in between sessions. The last frag in a WWDC gaming area was at least 3 or 4 years ago.
Feedback Forums All of the items so far (except maybe the Birds of a Feather) are ancillary to the purpose of WWDC; not so the Feedback Forums. These used to be an opportunity for attendees to give direct feedback to the various teams at Apple. There would be a feedback forum for each area (such as Quicktime, Core OS, Server, IT, etc.) and the session was basically an open mic where you could talk to the engineers in a structured but informal way. Best of all was the Vice Presidents Feedback Forum, where a bunch of Apple’s VPs would answer questions about anything. Can you imagine that now? Apple did away with “Ask the VPs” several years ago, and gradually whittled the other Feedback Forums over the years until they disappeared entirely in 2008. In these iPhone days, I think it is obvious why they will never return!
Developer Store There used to be a big third-party developer store. Essentially an Apple Store on wheels, where you could buy pretty much any Mac accessory you might suddenly find yourself needing (spare HD, USB cable, etc.). These days, you walk the five blocks to the Apple Store on Market.