AST Research, Inc. was a personal computer manufacturer, founded in Irvine, California, in 1980 by Albert Wong, Safi Qureshey and Thomas Yuen. AST's original business was the manufacture and marketing of a broad range of microcomputer expansion cards, later focusing on higher-density replacements for the standard Icalendar , a game port, and 384 KB of DRAM - marketed under the product name 'SixPakPlus'.AST Research also produced the Mac286, a pair of NuBus cards containing an Intel 80286 and RAM, allowing a Macintosh to run MS-DOS side by side with its existing operating system. These cards were announced March 1987 alongside Apple's Macintosh II line . The product line was eventually sold to Orange Micro, which developed the concept further.As PC manufacturers improved the integration of peripheral controllers on their motherboards, AST's original business began to dry up, and the company developed its own line of PCs, for the desktop, mobile, and server markets.AST was one of the members of the Gang of Nine which developed the EISA bus.In 1992 AST became a Fortune 500 company at place 431.AST computer's reliability was considered close to that of quality leaders Compaq, Gateway, and IBM. AST managed to gain a decent market share of the PC market, however, it never came close to overtaking Compaq and Dell. During 1992-1995, AST owned the largest market share in China with Legend as the largest local reseller of AST computer.In 1993 Radio Shack sold its computer manufacturing division to AST, and in 1994 they reached a deal to sell AST computers in Radio Shack stores. A year later, the electronics chain started selling IBM-brand computers instead.AST's fortunes turned south due to their strategy of sticking to only offering premium models in an increasingly competitive personal computer market, while Compaq Computer Corporation and other top-tier manufacturers slashed prices to go head-to-head with the cheapest clones. The failure of AST to recognize the movement towards the commoditization of the PC contributed to its downturn. AST insisted on developing and using its own components in the PCs it produced, instead of those of specialized OEMs. One often used saying at AST, in an attempt to dismiss such competitors, was "the best technology they have is a screwdriver."By the mid-1990s, AST had severe problems in the highly competitive PC market. Revenues for 1996 were $2.104 billion, down from 1995 revenues of $2.348 billion. AST Research was acquired by Samsung on August 11, 1996. Prior to this move, Samsung had already owned a substantial stake and provided considerable financial support to keep AST going. However, Samsung was forced to close the California-based computer maker after a string of losses and a mass defection of research talent.AST sponsored the English football club Aston Villa from 1995 to 1998. Wikipedia.
Hussain H.,AST Research |
Tan B.H.,AST Research |
Seah G.L.,University of New South Wales |
Liu Y.,AST Research |
And 2 more authors.
Langmuir | Year: 2010
A series of well-defined amphiphilic di- and triblock copolymers have been synthesized, using atom transfer radical polymerization, with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and poly(methacrylisobutyl polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane) P(MA-POSS) as the hydrophilic and hydrophobic blocks, respectively. The detailed self-assembly behavior of the amphiphilic macromolecules in aqueous media was studied using both static and dynamic light scattering (SLS andDLS) techniques. The evolution of block copolymer micelle formation in THF/water mixture (20/80 v/v)was monitored as the THF evaporated from the solvent mixture. Initially the block copolymer chains existed as unimers in solution, followed by the formation of smaller aggregates (Rh < 2 nm) after 30 min, eventually growing in size to reach an equilibrium size when all the THF evaporated within 24 h. The micelles formed by the block copolymerswere found to be kinetically unstable (not frozen); i.e., they tended to revert to individual copolymer chains on dilution. The hydrodynamic radii, Rh, of the micelles varied with the degree of polymerization (DP) of the hydrophobic P(MA-POSS); for example, for PEG5K-b-P(MA-POSS), an increase from Rh ∼ 13.3 ± 1.1 nm to Rh ∼ 17.5 ± 1.4 nm was observed with a nominal change in the DP of P(MA-POSS) from 4 to 6. The micelles formed by the triblock copolymers (P(MA-POSS)-b-PEG10K-b-P(MA-POSS)) were comparable in size to the diblock copolymer micelles; e.g., Rh ∼ 14.0 ± 1.3 nm was found for P(MA-POSS)4-b-PEG 10K-b-P(MA-POSS)4. The micellar structures created by the triblocks in aqueous media were "flowerlike", where the PEG middle block adopted a loop conformation in the micelle corona. In addition to micelles, larger aggregates formed by P(MA-POSS)-b-PEG10K-b-P(MA- POSS) were also detected in solution. The larger aggregates may suggest a contribution from some PEG blocks adopting an extended conformation with one end dangling in solution causing gelation at higher copolymer concentrations via intermicellar interactions. The P(MA-POSS)4-b-PEG10K-b- P(MA-POSS)4 formed a gel in water at ∼ 8.8 wt % copolymer concentration. No gel formation by diblock copolymers was observed; however, the addition of a small amount of triblock copolymer to an aqueous solution of diblock copolymer results in gel formation. Finally, rheological behavior of the obtained gels was also investigated. © 2010 American Chemical Society.
Sobh M.,AST Research
Near Surface Geoscience 2013 | Year: 2013
In the past few years, construction extended to the southeast of Cairo, Egypt, where limestone caves occur. The existence of caves and sinkholes represents a hazard for such new urban areas. Therefore, it is important to know the size, position, and depth of natural voids and cavities before building or reconstruction. In this paper, geoelectric-resistivity tomography, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and microgravity have been applied to image shallow subsurface cavities. Microgravity measurement was done to detect density variations in rock strata. Several gravity anomalies were found in the residual map. Semi-automated interpretation techniques including the Euler deconvolution, analytic signal have been used to investigate the depth and size of anomalous sources. Resistivity survey was conducted along three profiles over an exposed cave with unknown extensions. Results from 27 GPR profiles obtained by a SIR-2000 instrument equipped with a 200 MHz antenna were visualized in the form of horizontal time slices and vertical time sections. As a result, the cave at a depth of about 2 m and a width of about 4 m was detected using the geophysical data, which correlates with the known cave system.
PubMed | AST Research
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Current opinion in psychiatry | Year: 2015
To summarize the recent literature (1st January 2014-1st February 2015) on stimulant treatment programme evaluations, and highlight key areas for future programme development.Advances have been made in addressing both sexual risks and stimulant use among gay and bisexual men in the United States, and in adapting evidence-based resource-intense interventions to real-world settings. Programme outcome measures increasingly include changes in substance use as well as health and wellbeing indicators and measures of risk.Future programme directions include: expansion of the psychosocial repertoire to include narrative and mindfulness-based therapies; web-based programme delivery; sex-sensitive programming to attract and retain women; comprehensive programming to address coexisting mental and physical illness and polysubstance use (including tobacco smoking); and improving accessibility to promote early intervention. Comparability of evaluation data can be improved by developing standardized tools particularly for measuring change in sexual-risk behavior. The use of new statistical techniques can address the lack of comparison populations.
News Article | January 9, 1998
Two key Compaq executives are leaving the company. The Houston PC maker announced Friday that it named Michael Heil to replace Roel Pieper as the company's senior vice president and general manager of worldwide sales, marketing, service and support. Pieper joined Compaq's senior management after the merger with Tandem Computer. Heil will run Compaq's six sales and marketing regions, global accounts, service and support, and marketing communications. Heil was replaced as senior vice president and group general manager, consumer products group, by Rod Schrock, who is also vice president of the company's Presario division. In another announcement, Compaq said that North American VP and General Manager Jim Schraith will leave the company at the end of this month to take a job at another company. Schraith was once president of AST Research Inc. Heil will assume Schraith's duties until a replacement is found. No further information was given about the departures. Pieper was chief executive at Tandem, a Cupertino, Calif., maker of mainframe computers that was acquired last August in a deal valued at $4 billion.
News Article | February 8, 2000
This marks Demo's 10th year, and the joint is jumping. Sponsors say at least 1,000 people are registered. If anything, that might be an undercount; the opening session in the giant ballroom was standing room only. Chatting with Stewart Alsop, the journalist-turned venture capitalist who started Demo back in 1991, I asked how's business. "Hey, the money's great," Alsop beamed. "And when I talk to journalists, I tell them that it's really great." Same people turn up here every year. Only thing: They turn grayer and grayer. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch made a cameo appearance today as co-founder of Thelaw.com, a Web site aimed at providing legal advice to consumers. Cute idea, but I'm not sold. Koch is the pretty face here -- he's the best pitchman of the show's first day -- but he's no Felix Frankfurter. By the way, Koch thinks Hillary Clinton is going to outlast Rudy G. in the New York senatorial race. The word from the kosher pumpkin: Giuliani is his own worst enemy. Don't know about you, but I don't want to deal with any more data. I'm up to here with the "information at my fingertips" shtick. Rob Siegel of Weave Innovations evoked a fair number of oohs and ahs with the StoryBox, a picture frame appliance that lets users store and display up to 36 pictures. A lot of the bizarre stuff that gets shown at Demo winds up on the cutting-room floor, but this was one of those cool George Jetson appliances that comes down the pipe that could find a nice niche. Here's the big question: Will a large enough number of people be willing to pay $299 and the attendant $5 to $7 monthly connection fee? The place is crawling with lots of former Apple and Netscape execs. Speaking of Apple, I heard a delicious story about how screwy things were during the final days of John Sculley. The Scull-meister got a raw deal from Jean-Louis Gassee and Michael Spindler. Anyway, it seems that shortly after a big layoff announcement, one of Apple's top execs walked into a meeting with several members of the senior brass and threw a clutch of boat pictures onto the table. Pick whichever one you want except for this one, he said, pointing to a particular ritzy model. It was meant as black humor. But believe it or not, these clowns started arguing with him, thinking they deserved a fair shot at the booty. And this while thousands of pink slips were being handed out. Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen formally lifted the lid on his latest gig, Loudcloud. Among other things, Andreessen says his new company will "pour rocket fuel on Internet.com." Big statement, but is it just big hype? More about this tomorrow after yours truly breaks bread with Marky Marc. Another Netscapee, Srivats Sampath, was on stage -- this time as CEO of Mcaffee.com. As luck would have it, he was on hand to preview the company's new ad server technology just as privacy fears stirred up by DoubleClick's tracking policies continue to reverberate around the industry. Sampath says his company's product, which allows for targeted ad systems, still incorporates encrypted personal advertising profiles protecting consumer privacy. So, for example, if you work with a diskless workstation, the system would detect that and include advertisements from hard drive suppliers. But your particular identifying information would nonetheless remain hidden from any and all outsiders. If it works as advertised (no pun intended), this could be big. Ever the curmudgeon, Visicalc co-inventor Bob Frankston was on the warpath about the concentration of Internet distribution power in so few hands. Younology CEO Bonnie Lowell displayed grace under pressure when her demo crashed just as she was introducing her company's personal network alert technology. She remained cool as a cucumber and avoided a near descent into Demo hell. Lowell later had an interesting take on the way the Internet business is evolving. "You'd be amazed at how many companies we talk with don't even have products. Now that's the first question I ask." Bumped into AST Research founder Safi Qureshey, who is here as a reincarnated dotcommie. Every once in a while a product comes along that makes light bulbs go off in peoples' heads. Artie Wu of Vividence got that sort of reception with a technology that lets Web operators get targeted feedback and comments as they navigate around their sites. Former Businessland bigwig Enzo Torresi is destined to make a big splash with Kerbango, according to folks familiar with the company's Net radio product. For the Microsoft Office haters of the world, ThinkFree is peddling an interesting idea. This is a suite of software apps that looks and feels an awful lot like MS Office. Actually, this is a Web hosted service written in Java. So all you need to get going is a browser that runs on top of Windows, the Mac, Unix or Linux. All told, we're talking roughly 8MB, which the user downloads a single time. Microsoft lawyers are surely watching, and CEO Ken Rhie made sure not to get their dander up. "ThinkFree is not a replacement for MS Office," he said. "It is a true companion service to MS Office." Ahem, sure. Peripatetic software exec Mike Kolowich on life: "Things are good. I don't have to work." Josh Kopelman, the mad genius behind Half.com, the company that convinced a small Oregon town to rename itself as a dotcom, not surprisingly gives good demo. The company's not smoke and mirrors either. It launched last month and already has 1.9 million items listed for resale by its customers. The second coming of Amazon? Talk to me six months from now, but it's a terrific start. And so just how did Kopelman hit upon the Half.com publicity stunt? "We were sitting around trying to figure out how to put ourselves on the map, and that's when we hit upon the idea," he said. There were 413 towns whose names began with the name "Half." Nine weeks later, they had Halfway, Ore., in the bag. Buzz at the show is that former Lotus CEO Jim Manzi is spending a lot of time working on behalf of Bill Bradley's nomination. The good folks from Israel-based TeleVend finally debuted a technology that turns mobile devices into super credit cards. Beyond the gee-whiz experience of ordering a Coke from a cellular phone, the intriguing advantage here is how the technology defangs hacking. That's because the moment a hacker breaks in, what's he ripping off? A phone number -- which can be traced almost instantly. But since I saw a private demo by TeleVend about nine months ago, the company has been slow off the mark. In the interim, the Europeans have been pushing a similar technology into the market in a big way.
News Article | January 27, 2013
Samsung has big plans for its cloud-based Music Hub offering. In addition to rolling it out across the company’s own range of connected devices, the intention is to then expand it more widely to support hardware by other manufacturers too, the company tells us. Music Hub is a cloud-based service combining a user’s own library with Spotify-style streaming, radio and discovery features. It’s essentially a rival to traditional music stores, online radio, streaming services and cloud locker services all in one package. It’s currently only available on the Samsung Galaxy S III and Note II, but TJ Kang, SVP for Samsung Media Services told The Next Web today that the plan to expand its availability goes beyond just the company’s own hardware. Kang, who is in Cannes, France to speak at Midem‘s Visionary Monday event tomorrow, said that initially, the plan is for Music Hub to come to Samsung’s own phones, tablets, smart TVs and potentially even other devices such as its Android-powered connected refrigerator. Music Hub is currently available in six countries but its geographic reach is set to be expanded during 2013. However, he acknowledged that customers tend to own hardware from a variety of manufacturers and that expanding Music Hub to support these devices would make life easier for them. Music Hub is already available as a download on Google Play (supporting the Galaxy S III and Note II), so expanding it to non-Samsung devices (at least on Android) should be easy when the company decides to make that move. What’s interesting here is that this would move Music Hub on from being just a nice value-add for Samsung customers and pitch it as a direct competitor to Amazon, Google and other companies offering cross-platform music services that provide combinations of downloads, streaming and cloud lockers. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers will go for it. By way of comparison, Sony offers the Music Unlimited streaming service on its own hardware and on desktop computers, Apple iOS and non-Sony Android devices, and yet you don’t tend to hear that mentioned in the same breath as Spotify and Rdio. The current version of the Music Hub is the result of Samsung’s acquisition of Silicon Valley-based mSpot in May last year. Kang says that integration of mSpot features took just twenty days from the deal being announced, and this was the first acquisition by Samsung’s Set business (which produces the company’s consumer electronics lines) since it bought PC manufacturer AST Research in 1997. So, the company is clearly serious about Music Hub, which is a solid offering in comparison to its rivals. Kang tells us that the timing for a wider rollout of Music Hub for Samsung hardware depends on securing territory-specific deals with music labels and the release schedule for the company’s future flagship devices during 2013. He could give no timeframe for availability on other manufacturers’ hardware, but simply said that such availability was the company’s goal. You will be able to watch TJ Kang’s talk and the rest of Midem’s Visionary Monday, livestreamed here on The Next Web tomorrow during the European daytime. The event starts at 11am CET.
News Article | November 11, 2008
LOS ANGELES--There is very little room inside a PC these days, both literally and figuratively. Tiny Netbooks leave little physical space for any added components, while brutal price competition means it's just as hard financially to convince PC makers they need something extra. Still, that's what Safi Qureshey, who co-founded PC maker AST Research almost three decades ago, is trying to do. His start-up, Quartics, is pitching a chip that would augment the PC's main processor and graphics card with a programmable chip for handling things like Flash movies and video conferencing. "It's a co-processor. It does not replace anything," Qureshey said in an interview at last week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Los Angeles. Quartics' main targets, he said, are Netbooks and cheap laptops that don't have a lot of horespower to spare. "We significantly enhance the video quality of a very low-cost laptop and we enhance battery life," Qureshey said in an interview. (For more from the interview, check out the video interview below.) The company has been trying to get off the ground for a while now, having started in 2003. It has a number of venture backers and but has not publicly announced any PC maker customers. "We are working very closely with one. We just don't want to preannounce their name," he said. Quartics' chips are being manufactured in sample quantities, Qureshey said, with production volumes planned for the first quarter of next year. But the advent of Netbooks makes Qureshey hopeful that such chips are now poised to take off. Cost will certainly be a key factor. Qureshey said the company hopes to get the volume price of its chip "in the teens" of dollars as opposed to the "twenties" where it is today. Some of that cost, he said, can be offset by using a cheaper main processor or graphics chip, he said. Microsoft was showing off a sample of Quartics' chip in one of its booths at WinHEC.
News Article | August 12, 2002
But one important difference separates the company from the pack: It's based in China, one of the world's hottest markets for technology. The Legend Group, which once existed only as a wholesale distributor for U.S. and European brands, has transformed itself into one of the world's fastest-growing technology conglomerates, with its hands on everything from desktops and servers to cell phones, retail franchises and information technology services. Many businesses in China that it's involved are expected to grow by double digits through 2006 and beyond. The rapid rise of Legend contrasts markedly with the stagnating state of PC makers in the United States, which last month reported that worldwide shipments had declined nearly 1 percent in the second quarter of this year. Although no one is calling it an immediate threat to Dell Computer, competitors are following Legend's moves with a mixture of envy and nervousness. The numbers show why. Legend grew shipments by 24.2 percent in 2001, Gartner analyst Charles Smulders said, and the company pulled in $2.7 billion (HK$20.9 billion) in revenue and $134 million (HK$1.045 billion) in profit for the fiscal year ended March 2002. Only Sony at 25.2 percent grew faster, he noted, while Dell grew by 18 percent, "and everybody else was negative" in 2001. "I believe Legend's success lies in the catering of their products toward the market," said Dennis Lam, a financial analyst with Hong Kong's Kim Eng Securities. It benefits, he said, from "the amount of retail locations and a great distribution network, a great brand name, great customer service reputation, and a dominant market share, especially on the consumer side in China." In some ways, however, Legend may face far greater challenges ahead as its domestic success reaches an eventual plateau. As Dell and Hewlett-Packard experienced in years past, Legend will likely have to look beyond its borders to keep booming, and industry analysts wonder whether the company can leap from being a local leader to a player on the world stage. "They are certainly aggressive in price, but they are operating in a private market," Smulders said. "They have a stronghold at home, but that doesn't really extend to other markets." First moves into Europe Still, the groundwork has quietly begun. Last fall, the company started selling consumer PCs in Hong Kong for the first time, and laptops under its QDI brand name in Spain, Germany, Italy and Greece. QDI motherboards have also become a leading brand in Europe. Perhaps more promising, the company has already taken steps toward becoming a contract manufacturer, a path to success paved by Quanta, Acer and other Taiwanese giants. Last September, Legend and Taiwan-based Gigabyte, one of the world's largest motherboard makers, signed a $30 million U.S. joint venture for contract manufacturing. Under the deal, Gigabyte will provide design expertise and sales contacts; Legend is to concentrate on running low-cost factories. The venture will initially focus on boards but likely expand, the companies said. Legend even opened a U.S. research site last year in San Jose, Calif., staffed with American and Chinese engineers. The company has not been immune to global economic problems, seeing its growth rate slow to 5 percent in the second quarter of 2002 because of a decline in Asia-Pacific PC sales. But even in these relatively tough times, it was still able to move into the top 10 of PC manufacturers worldwide with a 2 percent market share, rising from from 13th place at the end of last year, according to Gartner. The imbalance between Asia-Pacific growth and declines everywhere else will continue to push the company up the charts. Legend is on the verge of passing Gateway in overall shipments worldwide and will begin to close in on Toshiba, according to market researcher IDC. The technology slowdown has prompted the company to play down global expansion at the moment. But the outward push is inevitable. "Speaking for the next two to three years, we will focus on mainland China," said Qiao Jian, vice president of marketing. At the same time, she said, "Legend's mission is to be an international company in 10 years. We are thinking of doing some branded sales in Southeast Asia." That time frame might seem ambitious to outsiders, but not to those familiar with the company's history. If anything, the company has shown it learns quickly. Evolution in a hurry Founded in 1984 by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Legend first existed as a distributor of foreign information technology products. AST Research, once a fairly strong brand, essentially taught the company how to build PCs, according to Kitty Fok, research director at IDC. It wasn't the best move for AST. After Legend entered the PC business in 1990, it subsequently stopped distributing AST computers, one of China's most popular brands at the time. In the mid-1990s, Legend signed an agreement with Acer to distribute that company's PCs to consumers, paving the way for the upstart to develop its own lines in that market. Legend's deals have proliferated along with China's growth. In 2001, AOL and Legend said they would each invest $100 million in a joint venture dedicated to creating new online services. Alliances have been struck with Asian cell phone makers, notebook manufacturers, LCD makers, printer manufacturers and digital camera suppliers that have helped Legend cement its position or get into these markets in the past two years. Many leading component suppliers have also formed or tightened partnerships in recent months. Among them are Siemens and Texas Instruments in cellular parts, IBM in storage technology, Microsoft in software and Intel in server technology. "They only partner with a very strong multinational and then learn what they can," Fok said. Though some analysts have pointed out that the company has benefited by strong ties to local buyers and low operating costs, Qiao asserts that Legend has also succeeded by studying the local market better than others. Teaming with private enterprises has also helped the company achieve an edge over local competitors. Rival Great Wall has largely remained an operation owned and run by the government. For example, she said, in 2000 Legend became the first Chinese company to automate Internet access through a link on the desktop. Before that, Chinese consumers had to go to the post office to get a number for a Net account. Not confined to hardware More recently, the company has gone on an acquisition spree to get into software and services. In March, the company acquired 51 percent of Han Consulting, a technology consulting firm for medium-sized to large enterprises, and a month later formed a joint venture with AI Software to develop services for insurance and finance customers. "Ninety percent of our revenue still comes from hardware, but in the next three to five years we think that 20 percent of our revenue will come from software," Qiao said. "Legend is transforming into a service-centric company." Diversifying into other business will likely help the company skirt some of the competitive realities of the PC market, which are occurring in China despite an expected growth rate of around 18 percent for the next five years, according to IDC. Generic "white box" PC makers are eroding profits in the consumer segment, and multinational manufacturers are expanding in China, which will reduce some of Legend's cost advantages. Chinese factory workers make about $1 a hour, according to estimates from Deutsche Bank, and engineers are comparatively inexpensive. In the business market, the company still can use local connections, but that won't help in exports or in attempts to sell to Western companies moving to China. Brand names often don't travel well, requiring millions of dollars and years of advertising to cement. As a result, the contract manufacturing alliance with behemoth Gigabyte may begin to loom larger as time goes on. "Just look at the experience of the Taiwanese technology companies, almost none of which have built brands overseas," Legend Chairman Liu Chuanzhi said last year in an interview. "I think we could take the path of Taiwanese companies that are original-design manufacturers, or we could cooperate with Taiwanese companies." Securities analyst Lam, on the other hand, believes the power of Legend's brand within China's borders should not be underestimated--regardless of what it sells. Even if the nation's economy slows, its markets will still be growing faster than those of its counterparts around the world. "Legend's strength, I believe, is their brand and localization, which will help them sell products and--more importantly--services going forward," Lam said. "PC demand in other parts of Asia or the world is stagnating. China remains one of the markets with the greatest potential.
News Article | November 15, 2002
During those go-go days in the mid-1980s, the annual trade show was something else. For starters, it was a semi-annual event. The new product spigot was full blast. So much was happening that the event's organizers could hold another Comdex each spring in Atlanta. In those pre-monopoly days, Comdex was full of possibilities and fizz was in the air. Nobody knew how this nascent industry was supposed to end up. And if they said they did, well, they were just fibbing. There was just too much going on. Microsoft was just another software company. Truth be told, it was not even considered first among equals. That title went to Lotus, at the time the preeminent software developer with its runaway spreadsheet success Lotus 1-2-3. When Bill Gates opined, the press did not fawn over him like a rock star. We paid closer attention to the more interesting ruminations of Lotus' then-CEO Mitch Kapor or the always-flamboyant antics of Philippe Kahn of Borland. Fact is the early versions of Windows were awful and, besides DOS, Microsoft didn't have much of a product portfolio to talk up on the show floor--at least not compared to what was going on at Lotus, Borland, WordPerfect and Ashton-Tate. Of course, that helped to make it all the more fun. The competition on the hardware side was equally fierce. IBM may have been big and bad, but upstart clone makers like Compaq Computer, Tandon and AST Research usually grabbed the bigger show headlines. Comdex was a geek's delight and you could lose yourself in the back aisles and easily stumble upon new products that were uniquely, outrageously cool. Even the dumbest ideas got their 15 minutes of fame--and there was no short supply of oddball gadgetry. My particular favorite was a co-processor board that let Mac users operate a PC. The product was so kludgy and so expensive you had to wonder why anyone would bother. But that was just it. Everything was up for grabs. This was not just a conventional trade show. It was a happening. Comdex may have been a zany potpourri, but you came away convinced that there was important stuff going on there that would reshape the future. In a way, it succeeded too well. The computer industry, which grew up to become a key part of the overall economy, also outgrew Comdex. Now that Microsoft lords over the software industry as a convicted monopolist and PCs have transmogrified from cool to commodity, this is just another--albeit expensive--trade show. With the big names increasingly staying away, who can blame them? For a lot of companies, the hassle and expense of trekking out to Vegas just isn't worth it. They can get a better return for the buck showing up at the sundry specialized conferences that attract the really serious buyers. With the economy still in a funk, every penny saved is a penny earned. So it hardly came as a surprise when Comdex promoter Key3Media warned earlier this week that it may need to for bankruptcy protection. The sad truth is Comdex just isn't relevant anymore. And it will never recapture that lost spark. Charles Cooper is the executive editor of commentary at CNET News.com.