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Dark suits and white hats: CeBIT 2014

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From our correspondent

CeBIT 2014 is the world’s largest computer fair and takes place every year at the city of Hannover in Germany.

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People visit the venues either on foot or by bus, admiring the good organization and the enormous area. Among the objects shown here are various robots used for medical or other humanitarian reasons, e.g.for discovering people trapped under ruins. There are also entertaining inventions like the small vehicle climbing the rocky “russian mountains” at the fair. It’s actually virtual and the two people who try it don’t move but stay put, experiencing the ride through a system worn on their head. At times they move together to the left or to the right as if they are trying to avoid some object or prepare for going downhill. Their synchronised reactions are interesting and funny.

In another spot there’s a robot resembling an ape taking his first steps and in practically every corner there’s an “ evangelist” from some company who standing on a stage with a microphone in their hands explain to the public the most recent developments in programming.

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I’m here merely out of curiosity , I’m not related to this field and my interest is mainly anthropological. I observe the young and the not so young professionals in their dark suits, with their short well-groomed hair, their ties, their laptops and their mobile phones as they promote their new apps, their systems, their products. A very large company, famous the world over, gives away white straw hats with its logo on a blue ribbon.

The hardware stands are dominated by the Far East with lively colours and a more relaxed atmosphere than the formal one felt near the “serious” software companies. Here one can see Chinese eating their lunch bent over their plates and at the same time minding their ware. Further down there is a friendly Korean woman in her traditonal clothes and somewhere else stands a man from India with a turban. Lots of plastic mobile phone covers in fluorescent colours, big storage constructions for protecting servers and some complicated computer systems used in agriculture are to be seen here and there.

A big hall is decorated with pink umbrellas in the characteristic colour of a telephone company whereas another large computer firm gives away yellow plastic bags which soon become very popular with the visitors.

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Countries such as Poland, Azerbaijan or Malysia have a dynamic presence.

Posters all around advertise keynote speakers, such as the co-founder of Apple, the creator of Wikipedia and others.

The sunny day urges us to go outside and eat something sitting on the grass. There are many restaurants inside but, as expected, they are relatively expensive.

A hall is dedicated to start-up companies with their very young people and their very good ideas.

In another hall there were enormous scanners reproducing virtually heavy old books or geographical maps. There were also 3D printers which will bring to life every object we care to design.

It was a pleasant, interesting experience for me and led me to several thoughts about our globalised and interconnected life. My thoughts weren’t particularly original, I just felt that there can’t be anything new under the sun nowadays, that all people look almost alike, make similar thoughts, have similar habits no matter where they live. The information which can be absorbed by our minds is limited whereas computers will prove the craziest sci-fi films right and will go on working alone, not giving a damn about our survival or our destruction.

However life goes on towards this direction, whether we like it or not. And we can’t deny that technology has a good side as well. Who would have thought, thirty years ago, that a day would come when we here in Europe would be able to see on a screen and communicate at the same time with our relatives who had emigrated to Australia? Or that our eye problems could be solved with laser?

With these simple thoughts I left the Expo.

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