AmiJam is a periodic Amiga show held in Calgary, Alberta. Traditionally it's organised every year, but held only every two. It's sponsored by the Amiga Users of Calgary and run and organised by volunteers.
In 1995, that primary volunteer was me.
The show's organisation had actually begun rather earlier, with Stephen Vermuelen, one of AMUC's longest standing members, at its head, but two months before the show was due to start, there were somewhere in the region of no financial commitments to it, and seemingly few personal ones. Steve relucantly stepped down, and the AMUC Executive put the show on hiatus. It seemed a pity, not only because of the work that'd been put into blueprinting the show, but also because Amazing Computing had run a nice 1/4 page advert for the show a month before.
Word, as per normal, spread about AMUC's decision, and one day we woke up to find this message on AMUC's answering machine: 446k WAV.
Well, WE SNAPPED!
Or rather I got a bee in my bonnet about it. Word on the nets had been positive, but we couldn't afford to run a show on goodwill alone and needed the financial support only exhibitors could bring us. And now we had one. And if we could get one, we could most definitely get others. So the hunt began.
I can tell you that pulling in exhibitors for a show to be held in just over a month in some country most of them have never heard of organised by a bunch of Amiga owners with no real track record is tough. I had exhibitors sounding interested, almost committing to attending and then dropping out with monotonous regularity. Some however were a dream to deal with, such as Oregon Research. But I digress. Work continued on pulling the show together, figuring out where it would be, how large an area we needed, support and so forth.
To draw crowds we needed more than just exhibitors, we needed speakers. I tend to spend a ridiculous amount of time on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) where Jason Compton (aka Mr Amiga Report) also tended to be. In the past, speakers for AmiJam fell into three categories: well known volunteer, developer, and personality. Jason had been running Amiga Report, organising online conferences and a slew of other bits and pieces so we figured he'd really fit the volunteer slot. And he was amenable to it. One down.
I was also at that point fiddling with Envoy, a peer to peer networking system for the Amiga, and was in periodic contact with Dale Larson, owner of IAM and its developer. I'd also bought Deathbed Vigil tapes and other items from IAM so had gotten to know him reasonably well. So, one Saturday afternoon, figuring what the heck, phoned up Dale and invited him. He agreed. Two down!
We were in a bit of a quandary about the third guest though. In the past we'd had such people as Eric Schwartz, Jim Butterfield and Fred Fish. Who could we get to top them? The usual list of amiga cognoscenti was reeled out -- pretty much the entire staff of Commodore, including Dave Haynie. In my usual optimistic way I made my lack of belief that we'd get any of them clear. The reply was "You'll never know unless you try." So I tried. Dave was polite in turning the offer down, stating his son's birthday was that weekend and he couldn't really justify taking off. Then a few days later I got another email from Dave saying he'd like to attend, and he'd be bringing his family with him to see Alberta as a holiday and gift. Over the next few days this got whittled down (not by AMUC though :)) until it was just Dave by himself again, drolly stating that now he could spend his time talking shop for the entire weekend. We had our third speaker! The fact that Dale, Dave and Jason had all talked to each other in the interim helped demonstrate that we weren't yanking their chains. Either that or they really were trusting...
We managed to get a new ISP in town to agree to attend, and they agreed to bring in a live Internet feed for the show. We were ecstatic, especially since it wouldn't (for a change) cost us a penny. Then there were the constant problems of coordinating their efforts with those of the location where the show was being held. The connection became an ISDN line, installation was organised but not confirmed; schedules were getting tight.
So time went on, lectures were organised, volunteers collected, last minute updates and adverts sent out. Everything was on track.
Then comes a phone call from Wonder's office in Ottawa, followed by an email from one of their Toronto employees. They didn't have details on the building the show was being held in so couldn't get insurance and so couldn't attend. Wonder was to a large degree underwriting the show with their colossal committment in terms of boothspace rented so this was a major problem -- nay fatal problem. This was on the weekend before the show. PANIC!
And as usual, was resolved simply. They had the information -- we'd sent it earlier, but some employees hadn't been talking to others and so things had gone awry. Everything was in order, but some people didn't know it...
When Oregon Research came in we practically turned them away going "You can't be them; you don't look anything like a computer company". AmiTrix we at least knew by face, being an Edmonton based firm. Spots were hard at work trying to get their connection working, and then set up the live link to one of the theatres we were using.
Wonder turned up with an incredible number of employees and stock. We were literally 'wow'ed. Things were great!
Except for those pesky speakers. Things started going wrong when Jason's plane was diverted from Calgary due to bad weather. The person going to meet him waited and then returned to us empty handed. As none of us had portable phones (or indeed any way of receiving incoming calls) we ended up using an answering machine with a remote dial in feature... That's how we then got to hear this message from Jason: 923k WAV. In the meantime, discussions with AmiTrix had produced an interesting problem. Earlier that month, I'd talked to them, and they'd wanted to take Dave Haynie out to dinner, and said they'd pick him up. I assumed they meant from the airport. They assumed from the show. The result was no one knew when he and Dale were arriving, nor which airline they were on, nor indeed which airport they'd flown from. Armed with a lot of change, AMUCcers returned to the Calgary Airport to wait them out.
And, indeed, they appeared -- but there was no sign of Jason. When Dave and Dale were dropped off at the nearby hotel we had them booked at, we discovered Jason Compton who'd gotten fed up of waiting at the airport and had taken a cab in. Panic over!
Well, the first one of the night anyway. Setting up the show was a bit chaotic. While we'd run up badges for the attendees, not everyone was wearing them and, by their nature, computer guys are a scruffy bunch. I mention this as towards 11 pm while we were setting up, a man came in to tell us that a vagrant was trying to sell off computer equipment on a nearby corner. After much discussion we found a missing WB3.1 upgrade -- previously sitting on top of a 2000 Toaster system, and under a sign declaring the value of the whole. By the time the search, nay, hunting party had gone out to have a look for this guy, he was long gone. The owners of the booth that it had been taken from had already gone home for the night so we were feeling pretty low until it was realised that the ROMS were already in the 2000, and one of the members had a spare box with the manuals and disks -- all that had actually been in the box. Saved again.
Various exhibitors still hadn't turned up, but we were now too blitzed to care. Security locked up the building and we went home.
For reviews of the show, check out Amiga Report or Amiga Computing. I'm all typed out :)