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It was fair in the true sense of the word, complete with helium balloons, popcorn, prizes, and bushel-baskets of apples. But its workers were dressed in pin-striped suits, not overalls, and fairgoers were more interested in information technology than apple pie.
The Harvard Computer Society organized a personal computer extravaganza yesterday which drew an estimatead 3000 computer shoppers to Memorial Hall between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. 25 manufacturers and retailers flaunted their wares, with varying degrees of marketing glitz.
An Interesting Way
"It seemed like an interesting way to get information to the students, especially now at the beginning of the semester," said Joseph A. Kronstan '87, the society's president and a Computer Science concentrator.
"Most people aren't buying here, although we are allowing dealers to take orders," said Konstan. "Most of the companies are just showing their products so they can be purchased later."
Konstan was one of the most sought-after people at the fair, doling out his expertise freely to befuddled computershoppers.
One student came up to Konstan and asked, "Whatprinter should I buy?" He directed her to aprinter dealer who had set up a booth at the otherend of the room, and told her to come back afterchecking it out. Later she took copious notes ashe gave her advice.
"I get questions like this all the time," hesaid. "The Dean of Students' office will givepeople my name, and even the Science Center willput people in contact with me.
IBM had hands-down the most festive booth ofall, the centerpiece of which was a windsurferemblazoned with the company's logo. A steadystream of students was drawn to the booth by aminiature wheel of fortune, because spinning meantwinning an IBM-insignia trinket, a balloon, a cup,or a notebook. And if you wanted popcorn, this wasthe place to go.
"We have a lot of promotional items, and wethought we'd try to make it fun," said IBMmarketing representative Lori E. Granger. Grangerand the other eight IBM employees at the booth didno selling yesterday. Instead, they just fieldedquestions, raffled off a computer, and directedwould-be buyers to dealers who carry theirproducts.
Fun has its time and place, but buying acomputer is no laughing matter, and IBM'slighthearted display was not for everyone. "I wasa little disappointed," said David H. McConaughy'90. "I wanted someone to sell me an IBM, and allthey wanted to do was give me popcorn."
Still, IBM drew the most students to its boothand left many of the smaller dealers--many of whomsell merchandise compatible with an IBM--withoutpotential customers. Rick Bartlett, president ofClub Computer in Harvard Square, said sellingcompatibles is "a challenge" because dealers mustwin over people conditioned to think IBM is thebest deal.
"We're all just out of college, and we knowwhat it's like to not be able to afford a computerat IBM's prices," Bartlett said. "We try to comein with a lower-priced product that has fullIBM-compatibility."
"People come in and the first thing they say is'I want an IBM. Do you sell IBM?'" Bartlett said."We support every product that we sell, and weeven deliver to students in their dorm rooms.Being up against a giant like IBM is exciting,actually. We try to get away from the cold retailimage and offer more personal service."
"We try to be more helpful," Bartlett said."What we're trying to do is important. It'ssomething to think about.
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