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Cosby headlines Hall of Fame Night

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Punctuated by an hour-long comedy routine delivered by Vegas veteran Bill Cosby at the Comdex expo in Las Vegas, seven legendary computing figures were inducted Monday evening into the CRN Industry Hall of Fame. By JEREMY ROSENBERG.

The newest inductees into the CRN Industry Hall of Fame are: partners Phil Corcoran and Chuck Wolande, the co-founders of Comark: Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of his eponymous enterprise: Dennis Hayes, inventor of the PC modem standard: Jim Manzi, former head of Lotus: Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com: Judy Odom, co-founder of Software Spectrum: Jeff Raikes, a Microsoft VP: and Ralph Szygenda, General Motors’ CIO.

The winners were celebrated not just for their affiliations, but also for their significant achievements. Metcalfe, for example, was credited as “the father of Ethernet.”” Szygenda brought OnStar guidance systems into automobiles.

The seventh annual event was held at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, surely one of the few venues on Earth to incorporate into their décor a wall-mounted guitar from the band Soul Asylum, a framed Weird Al Yankovic concert poster, and a Sex Pistols slot machine.

A mostly suit and dress-clad full house mingled and enjoyed an open bar prior to the event’s commencement: afterwards, remaining revelers stuck around to see a scheduled performance by disco tribute band, Boogie Knights.

The award ceremony’s theme was “”Honoring the Stars of the Technology Industry.”” The cover of the program featured a faux section of sidewalk from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With the exception of Dell, the nominees appeared ‚Äî in costume and in character ‚Äî in personalized video send-ups of famous films.

Spectrum’s Odom and Microsoft’s Raikes were among the Famers to mention their longstanding ties with COMDEX. Odom said during her acceptance speech that it had been a long time since she had been back to COMDEX, and joked about her collection of beach towels with the logos of companies that had since gone out of business. Raikes, meanwhile, recalled significant Microsoft introductions at COMDEX back in 1982 and 1985.

The ceremony concluded with the Cosby set. During the awards portion, he had mostly stood on stage and silently vamped, holding the Oscar-style statuettes for the Hall of Famers while they delivered their remarks.

When self-effacing Metcalfe, the 3Com founder who said he first went to COMDEX in 1982 and overall, put in 14 years of booth duty here, made a comment about the age of people like he and Cosby, the former voice of Fat Albert, Jello pudding, and Heathcliff Huxtable, to name a few, feigned dropping Metcalfe’s statuette.

Metcalfe held his own in the humor department. Riffing on the networking law that takes his name, he jested, “”It’s fun having a law. Unlike Moore’s Law, Metcalfe’s Law has never been true.””

Most of the winners wore fancy dinner dress. Cosby, on the other hand, wore sandals, white socks, sweat pants, and a sweatshirt with rainbow-colored letters spelling out, “”Hello CRN Friend.””

The storytelling comedian opened his routine with a jab at the excitement level of the awards show, told a tale about high school and his appearance as an opera extra, and then made a couple of cracks about the “”b-word”” in the audience ‚Äî billionaires ‚Äî and the costs of contemporary computers.

“”This business that you’re in reminds me a lot of college,”” Cosby said, seated center stage on a folding chair, hands clasped, body leaning forward, “”And I’m waiting for the price of your computers to catch up with the price of admission to Yale.””

Cosby added that when he was a kid, he was only “”worth”” the price of a yellow No.2 pencil. Now, he said, kids can be worth $10,000 of “”stuff.””

The majority of the comic’s performance was devoted to material about married life and family. He also discussed Las Vegas and dentistry.

Following Cosby’s act, Gary Marshall, President and CEO of CMP Media ‚Äî CRN’s parent company, took the stage and congratulated all of the Hall of Fame inductees and thanked them on behalf of the industry. The nine winners and the presenters returned to the stage and received, as Cosby had moments prior, a standing ovation.

CRN Industry Hall of Fame inductees are selected by CRN editors with the help of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. The 68 members of the Hall include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Vint Cerf, and Tim Berners-Lee.

* Jeremy Rosenberg covered the event for the Comdex newspaper, The Daily.

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