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Modern Rituals, by Jason Briggs

It's an odd sensation when you're wandering around and everyone immediately looks at your chest. (No, I don't have a strange growth protruding from my sternum.) I recently visited the Embedded Systems Show (ESS) in London. The offending item, attracting all the attention, was the printed badge visitors were expected to wear when entering the exhibition, displaying in large letters their names and - more important - their companies.

Like some sort of bizarre, primitive ritual, each badge was scrutinized by exhibitors to determine whether the visitor was worth talking to and, undoubtedly, where he or she ranked in the hierarchy. There was a sense of quiet desperation in the air as I watched each visitor mentally catalogued by the exhibitors. I wondered if my badge had read "Venture Capitalist," whether I would have been set upon like a tourist in a Turkish bus station or whether I would have just inspired some peculiar type of fawning-over-the-alpha-male behavior.

Perhaps this is just more evidence of the dot-com bust. I remember the European Consumer Trade Show a few years ago being the exact opposite; you were lucky to attract the attention of exhibitors at all - unless it was by the scantily clad models who were paid to take photos with you.

No, ESS was a completely different and somewhat alien environment - a psychologist's dream and a hardware-geek's paradise. However, for your average Java developer, only a few stands warranted immediate closer inspection.

NewMonics was announcing partnerships with Metrowerks (CodeWarrior) and Enea OSE Systems (Real Time Operating Systems) while at the show, and Espial was showing off a rather funky-looking, tablet-sized "Internet Appliance."

esmertec, inc. (www.esmertec.com) seemed to be the only company to make any particular effort to produce an interesting demo.

Demonstrating their Jbed virtual machine and Real Time Operating System was a foot-high perspex frame with a circuit board and magnet resting on top. A softball floated about an inch below the magnet. I mean, when you have a product that could conceivably be used in all sorts of devices, you could drop a Ferrari on a rotating platform, throw a monitor with your product in the front, and probably draw large crowds no matter how good or bad your product is. But it takes a special kind of geekness to think up a floating softball. esmertec now occupies a special place in my heart because of this.

Last, but not least, QNX (www.qnx.com) was situated near the back of the auditorium, next to another large, well-known operating system vendor. Micro-something, I think. QNX is another real-time OS vendor who first came to my attention about four years ago - with their 1.44Mb operating system on a floppy disk (a real-time OS, graphical user interface, browser, dialer, TCP/IP and sample apps, all on a single disk. A seriously impressive effort).

On the Java front, QNX was sharing the stand with OTI (an IBM subsidiary company), whose J9 virtual machine is included in QNX's Voyager Web Browser. (We'll try to take a look at it in the next few months.)

As far as I know, the 1.44Mb demo disk does not include Java - but I live in hope that they will somehow find a way to squeeze it on. Just for the hell of it, of course.

So, considering there were in excess of 120 companies exhibiting at the show, the percentage of Java-related technologies was relatively low. But I'm sure if you had put a similar selection of companies together this time last year, or the year before, you would no doubt be looking at an even smaller fraction.

In this month's issue of JDJ, you'll find a discussion on J2ME Cryptography (perfect for gadget-happy paranoiacs, looking at securing their data on handheld devices), a beginner's guide to MIDP development, and the essential API rundown - your J2ME cheat sheet.

As for me, I'm off to get my chest x-rayed... just in case.

Author Bio
Jason Briggs works as a Java analyst programmer in London. [email protected]

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