MacHack Conference opens tomorrow

The annual MacHack Conference opens at 12:01 AM Thursday morning June 22 in Dearborn, Michigan with a public reunion of the original Macintosh development team. The reunion, expected to run until dawn Thursday morning in the classic MacHack style, kicks off a 72-hour conference where top Mac coders get together and do what they do best -- hack out code. At the end of the conference, the projects created during the conference are publicly demonstrated, and prizes are awarded in several categories.

On Thursday night, Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak will have a fireside chat with conference attendees. He is expected to talk informally about his past experiences with the Mac, and muse on the future of the Mac and computing. The easygoing 'Woz' was last a keynote speaker at MacHack in 1997, where he promised to return. Wozniak rarely makes appearances such as this, but the generally relaxed attitude of the MacHackers and the creative development and programming focus of the event make the conference a natural for him. Last year's speakers were open source luminary Eric Raymond and Adobe graphics pioneer and CEO John Warnock.

Conference Chairman John Penn says that this conference is "one of those contemplation years, where we take a look at where we are going and where we have been." In addition to Wozniak's Fireside Chat on Thursday night, Andy Hertzfeld, Guy 'Bud' Tribble, Randy Wiggington, Bruce Horn, Daniel Kottke, Caroline Rose, Jef Raskin and Bill Atkinson will make up the kick-off reunion keynote Thursday Morning. Bios for many of the conference's stellar cast are available on MacHack's website.

Looking forward, many of the sessions at the conference will cover Mac OS X issues. Last year, speculation and concern was rampant at the conference as developers got ready for Mac OS X. This year, Penn expects that Mac OS X will be an even bigger topic, as developers now have had a year or so to work with it. Additionally, many developers have suggested that MacHack is the first place where developers can more openly discuss issues that Apple responded to during last month's WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference).

Apple representatives and other sponsors like Metrowerks and Microsoft are around the entire conference to informally answer questions and conduct sessions that provide information in a wide variety of topics and areas of interest to Mac developers. Also, there are a series of youth sessions to give budding Mac programmers aid in developing their hacks for the show.

The anemic technology economy has hurt everyone this year, and has also affected the MacHack Conference. Warren Magnus, Sponsorship Chairman for the conference, said this year has been "Far and away the hardest year putting together sponsorship. It's just been a bad year for IT and marketing spending." Magnus reports that a fortune-500 company cancelled their sponsorship, and that this was the first time that something like that has happened. Despite the squeeze, Magnus says that sponsorship is now strong. According to the conference website, almost 20 sponsors have signed on for the conference, and there will be some surprises.

Magnus told MacCentral that gathering up all the illustrious Mac developers was difficult. "It was a long process with a lot of negotiation," said Magnus. MacCentral will be at the show, and we will not sleep until the entire evening's events have been reported. Also, if anyone would like to meet at the conference, please email me at dread@maccentral.com.