It’s in the bag — or not

Every year here at E-tales HQ we impatiently wait for one particular event

Every year here at E-tales HQ we impatiently wait for one particular event. Oh sure, there are product launches in Europe, Bistro lunches, those expensive helicopter flights across Auckland harbour and paper bags filled with used low-denomination notes left under the pier, but it’s the annual geek-off nerd fest we know as Microsoft’s TechEd that we hold dearest to our hearts.

Is it the intense pressure-cooker of learning? Is it the meeting of minds, the mingling of ideas, the drinking from the well of knowledge?

No, silly. It’s the bag.

Each year every TechEd attendee receives a bumper book of seminars and workshops, a handy-dandy neck tag that lets you wander at will, pens and a pad of paper. Everyone who attends a Jesper Johansson seminar on how to break into your own system also receives a set of lock-picks and a balaclava, but that goes without saying. Everyone is there for the bag.

You can tell the level of geekiness of attendees by how old their TechEd bags are. A Level 13 .Net arch-druid, for instance, might sport one of 2003’s satchels, while a Level 27 Visual Basic uber-nerd will have one of the rare 1999 plaid bags.

Here at E-tales we treasure our preciouses, but just this once we’ll share them with you. No touching, though.

TechEd 1999: the bag time forgot

Behold its greyness. Marvel at its sleek design, its lack of cellphone pocket.

Back then (last century, pre-Y2K, before the dotcom) you could carry your 15” Compaq laptop (notebooks were far away, and Dell was an aberration) and, possibly, some floppy disks, as well. The colour worries us though — it looks so 1980s. Still, it was sturdy and serviceable, and didn’t take up much space. But something was missing … something indefinable, but probably style-related.

TechEd 2000: let’s get slumpy

And so, Microsoft got hip. It got trendy. It got the courier pack!

Yes, one strap to hold them all, the courier bag was in, it was everything. The most talked about bag ever. Also, the most borrowed, if ours are anything to go by. Never mind that it was somewhat lacking in pockets, it was black and super cool. Many a bike courier stared at our satchel with envy.

TechEd 2001: black bag job

So black, in fact, that the photo didn’t come out. Ahem.

However, 2001 (the year of the Odyssey) saw a return to sanity at Bag End. With just a hint of reflectorised material, the 2001 vintage was a back to basics satchel with room for a laptop, albeit still only a 15” screen jobbie.

New to the bag this year, however, was the cellphone pouch on the side. A nice touch, but since cellphones were still rather large, the pouch was big enough for a whole kangaroo.

TechEd 2002: logo of death!

Yes, it’s … another satchel. Clearly the 2002 model represents a time before Microsoft was able to embrace TechEd’s bagginess. The updated logo was a nice touch (a shrunken-like throwing logo, if ever we saw one) and there was no sign of the assorted sponsors’ logos to boot. Yes, it had a cellphone pouch and the zip pull tabs but, somehow, the zaniness of the 1999 was missing. Even the rubber feet don’t cut the mustard.

TechEd 2003: Vive le difference!

The style gurus had clearly wrenched control of the bag budget back from the bean counters. Yes, it was another laptop bag, but, oh, what a difference a year makes.

With its Star Trek space suit puff-jacket padding, the 2003 stood out from the crowd, and we haven’t even mentioned the lurid green of the logo.

Form, function, texture, they all came together to create an ensemble piece that defies description. We know. We’ve tried.

TechEd 2004: The year our chronicler wasn’t around for Tech Ed

TechEd 2005: the year we got our bag back

With the miracles of time travel, we arrive back in the present. The current model is laden with features. It’s a backpack (yay!) with padding (nice). It has side pockets made from a stretchy, wet-suit-like material. It has a front pocket with a hole to poke your headphones through and a zipped compartment for your “CD Player” (I remember those, pre-iPod, right? — Ed) and countless pockets, hooks, pouches and whatnot to store every conceivable item. The bag even has room for a 17” laptop and stands upright when you plonk it on the ground. Excellent work — an instant icon.

TechEd 2006: the bag revealed

And so, E-tales is proud to present the 2006 model. Sleek, refined, dare we say glamorous (No — Ed). This is a bag that reflects the changing world of technology — it’s as attractive to girls as it is to guys, or so we’re told.

Room for a laptop, pockets a plenty, yet flat, able to tuck under an airline seat without a second thought. It’s the bag that’s a conversation starter, if you want to have a conversation that starts with, “You’ve been to TechEd, haven’t you?”.

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