Master of disguise

That was quite a display.

Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

It’s about 20 years ago, and this pilot fish travels around the U.S. demonstrating his company’s network computer at trade shows.

“The device,” says fish, “was basically a dumb terminal connected to a PC server instead of a mainframe, and therefore capable of serving up Windows and web applications. Since the product was small and easy to miss, I would always attach an impressive 17-inch LCD flat-screen monitor that retailed for $2,000.”

In 1998, most people have never seen a flat-screen monitor, so conference attendees regularly flock to fish’s booth at the exhibit hall. After answering a few basic questions about the display, fish would shift customers’ attention to the network computer beside it and go into his spiel. The approach works every time, until fish works a government industry conference in Washington, D.C.

“One customer was unduly fascinated by the display, and every time I tried to shift his focus to our network computer, he would glance at it briefly, then return with more questions about the monitor.”

And does he ever have questions: What kind of glass is that? What’s the index of refraction?

Fish doesn’t have all the answers, especially since the display comes from a different division of his company, so he provides the customer with the business card of the manager of the display unit and urges him to contact that person. The customer is visibly disappointed but takes the card and walks away.

Later in the day, fish sees one of his meet-and-greet colleagues approaching his pedestal, accompanied by that same stubborn customer, who’s looking excited. Well, fish reasons, maybe he’s heard something about the network computer and is ready to learn more.

And he hears his colleague telling the customer, “This is the guy who can tell you all about it!”

“That’s great!” the customer says, “because that jerk who was here this morning didn’t know squat about the display!”

Says fish: “I couldn’t believe he didn’t recognize me just because I had switched from eyeglasses to contacts during the lunch break.”

Sharky’s display would be a lot more interesting with your true tale of IT life on it. Send it to me at You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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