This is a guest post from Glen Clifford, a freelance journalist based in Taipei. His website is oodio.net.
Well Computex is over for yet another year and I have to tell you, this year the show was even bigger (4,492 booths!) even better, even brighter and – well – not so noisy. Yes, we had the usual on-stage promotions presented by very young sexy girls, dressed in tightly wrapped brightly coloured plastic… But apart from hearing their produced fake doll-like voices, we didn’t see a lot of dancing and gyrating to loud pop music, as seen in years past. Damn! – Maybe only the agents and distributors got to see them sway on stage, as Computex is locked down from the general public for its first few days.
However, I suspect that something else may be going on… It was conspicuously quiet at the booths as well… There was no loud Kenny-G playing to display some company’s speaker system (Kenny-G is favourite test music for many Taiwanese computer nerds) and no loud sound-effects of exploding villages and people dying from the video game or LCD monitor manufacturers… It was all kept down to an amazingly low decibel… Maybe the organizers have decided to try to create a more relaxed atmosphere, but the effect was that the experience became a little too much like walking through a very long mortuary.
I have to confess to seeing two model types in action, but this became the funniest and most entertaining part of my day. The first girl was perhaps just 17… She did not have a good face… She was not cute, not beautiful and not pretty. I can see better on the MRT Subway every minute of the day. Yet, she had somehow got a job as one of the showgirls (also called ‘campaign girls’) for some company. The only thing 'showgirl' about her was her uniform and the funniest thing was to see her surrounded by a group of amateur-professional photographers, providing poses as if she had just been crowned Ms Universe! Her hips were swaying, hand behind neck in a type of Marilyn Monroe stance, company promobag between her legs… She looked exactly like a 13 year old girl playing make-believe popstar with her mother’s makeup on, in the home bathroom mirror. This was hilarious to see… What was equally funny were the ten-or-so amateur-professional photographers clicking away shots of her… Starved for any girl they could get their camera lens attached to, they surrounded her like a scene from the movie ‘Kong’, a group of Nikon monkeys about to snatch the 17 year old damsel into their collective hand … It was all too obvious that these guys were not the professional press media breed of Nikon/Canon monkey, but definitely the type of photo nerd (sorry, I know I am being harsh) that frequents car and computer shows, simply to snap pictures of pretty young girls. So, on one hand we have a very young girl in a total world of fantasy, and on the other, a group of too old men, having another type of fantasy – no shame from the perspective of either party. Oh well, this is definitely a fetish Taiwan shares with Japan!
The other funny thing (and more to my interest) was the exhibit of some valve amplifiers for computer based hi-fi systems. A few years ago, somebody realized the obvious: that older hi-fi equipment sounded somewhat better than the new stuff. They quickly realized that this older ‘warm’ sound came from the fact that old stuff used valves for energy. The same thing happened in the recording industry… Engineers at even the big companies like Warner, Sony and BMG re-discovered the joys of a technical quality that had been swept away in the early 1980’s, when digital audio workstations became the norm… Today, sound recorded and reproduced this way, mixed with the best of digital audio technologies, can provide some of the best sound experiences we could ever hear with our humble human ears. So back to the Computex exhibit on valve amplifiers: The funniest thing was seeing a showgirl selecting tracks from her crappy iPOD, which had been plugged into the back of a rather expensive valve amp. Here we had something worth a lot of money, connected to a little iPOD – and the sound quality was absolute sh%*! The music had been encoded at perhaps 112kb and contained all the whistles, whoosh, cracks and distortion that is so characteristic of MP3 recorded at low bitrates. People initially attracted by the music (as it was the only music playing) and glowing valve amp, were coming away from the booth with frowns on their faces; a total waste of time in promotional effort, akin to a Ms Universe competition without any girls… Oh… we are back to the girls again…
Lesson: Computex exhibitors, DON’T trust showgirls with your products or company image!