Last weekend, thousands, many wearing costumes and/or makeup in homage of their favorite characters, converged on the San Jose Convention Center for the first Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC), an event pioneered by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (also known as "the Woz") and comic book industry icon Stan Lee.
Maximum capacity for the facility is 30,000 visitors a day, and it was mentioned in the introduction to Wozniak’s Saturday morning Welcome session that it was the biggest event ever held at that venue, including more than 250 exhibitors and sponsors, "and next year will be even bigger."
Even as the event was being launched, it was announced that a sister event would take place in December in Tokyo.
Trip Hunter, CEO of SVCC, explained, "We wanted to create an event that really celebrated the tech aspect of popular culture," adding, "Woz was adamant that we aim for the cutting edge of things, and his name helps."
When Wozniak was announced to the packed room, a squad of Stormtroopers in full regalia marched up the aisle to the stage, while Wozniak appeared onstage wearing a Jedi robe. After some brief introductory remarks, Madame Tussauds San Francisco unveiled a statue of Wozniak (the wax museum ran a poll last year to determine the next tech innovator to immortalize; Wozniak received 60% of the votes).
Wozniak explained his involvement in the new Comic Con was rooted in "a time before Apple when we were geeks, we were just different, and we liked living outside the rules and making up, because we felt, we didn’t know how to dress, what to do with our hair, or whatever, and somehow going into chatrooms at some point in time and being anonymous people, and being somebody that we wanted, that we imagined to be, and shyness could come out of you that way."
He continued, "We’ve grown up a little strange, outside the normal social world. You don’t really know how to talk all the little small talk and pleasantries that the high-class people do, and you become proud of it, you become independent. It leads to a lot of thinking about, if we all grew up seeing some movies and shows where somebody’s flying through the air; ‘whoa, I wish that were me.’ And so what we wind up with, you see a lot of the science fiction from decades ago turning into real products."
Today, Wozniak noted, "We’ve got jet packs that will let people fly, and water packs on the ocean. We’ve got, Superman can see through walls; we’ve got different techniques based on certain radio-type techniques that can actually see through walls now. It’s like we want the super-powers."
Wozniak said he "loves technology…it makes me feel like I’m a superhero in a way; I’m so much more powerful with it than I would be without it. And that’s, we get to live our dreams, we get to turn them into reality."
Wozniak speculated the next major technology segment that will bridge the gap with imagination is virtual reality.
Ultimately, "This whole process is to have imagination, to think of things that don’t exist in the real world, but they exist in your world, in your head, and then we have the ability to realize them, make them real, create things that actually do what we never really expected would happen. And that’s a part that I’ve been very much a part of, and I’m very glad where it’s taken us."
Lawrence M. Fisher is Senior Editor/News for ACM publications.