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Hamilton--Glimpses of the Future

May 2000
When I was six years old, a World's Fair was held in Flushing, NY. Companies such as General Motors sponsored pavilions that showed how we would travel in the 21st century. And Bell Telephone showed phones with television screens. Of course, much of what was shown never came to pass. However, many other things that were pure fantasia did turn into reality.

In many ways, this month's DRUPA is exactly the same thing, only with all the exhibits dedicated to printing and publishing.

For those of us who have experienced only a "traditional" trade show, it's hard to describe just how large this quinten-nial event really is. With 18 halls, all of which are about the same size as Chicago's McCormick Place North, there is absolutely no way a single person can begin to do more than sample the fare. In fact, just walking from Hall 1 to Hall 8—they're arranged in a large oval—is a 30-minute ordeal, even with the motorized sky-walks (the sort of thing envisioned by that World's Fair) that crisscross the fair grounds.

Yet the real question is: Why would an American printer or prepress company executive travel all the way to Germany when Graph Expo is just around the temporal corner in September?

This highlights the essence of DRUPA. Clearly, printers and prepress folks don't go to DRUPA to check out potential machinery, hardware and software. For that, shows like Graph Expo are fine, and certainly more accessible.

No, DRUPA is about seeing where the printing industry is headed and will likely be in about five years. In fact, a large percentage of the technologies on display at DRUPA won't even be available for at least another year or two. And some will never make it to commercial availability at all, based on feedback garnered from the global printing community.

DRUPA is an event where R&D meets the real world and printing suppliers can validate their hunches as to what will be their next generation of successful new products.

So why should anyone get all excited about seeing canned demos of technologies that, at best, won't be available for a few years?

Because it's the only venue where you can begin to map out a long-term strategy for technology investments. To be sure, the map will provide incomplete and occasionally erroneous directions, but it's better than going on hunches alone. And since everyone is pretending to see the future, the collective wisdom—and folly—actually provides its own measure of reason from which to judge what you see on the show floor.

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