The electric power industry has a long history with trade shows. As a matter of fact, it was a trade show that gave Westinghouse and Tesla their win over Edison in the battle of the currents. It was the 1893 World’s Fair held in Chicago, which proved to be the last encounter of AC and DC in the battle. Edison and Westinghouse/Tesla bid on the job of electrifying the World’s Fair and Westinghouse won – the rest is history, as they say. Here is an interesting video giving a great overview of how our industry became AC-oriented.
Big extravaganzas such as World’s Fairs have been replaced by more subject-specific trade shows and technical conferences. I used to joke that I got to attend my first trade show by winning an essay contest. As a young engineer, I wasn’t really interested in trade shows, I was too busy with all the projects my company expected me to finish, but that changed one day when I was told to write a technical paper about building an HVDC converter station. Heck, I wasn’t a writer, I really wasn’t interested in making presentations, I never saw myself as a speaker, and I was too busy. So, how did I end up in a room filled with engineers, technicians, and executives talking about the care and feeding of an HVDC converter station?
I guess you might say I was just lucky. I had a friend and mentor, Nari Hingorani who was putting together a panel session on HVDC converter stations at one of the early IEEE PES conferences, which evolved into today’s IEEE PES T&D Expo. He was convinced I needed to take part in the panel session and I could not talk him out of it. At the time, I really wished he would find someone else, but I am so glad he kept the pressure on me and I wrote that essay, actually a technical paper – my first. Being the mentor, he was, Nari had additional plans for my first PES conference. He introduced me to all of the HVDC experts gathered at Anaheim. The Expo proved to be an excellent venue for meeting and talking with these engineers making history in the HVDC technology of the day.
Nari also encouraged me to wander around the exhibit floor and talk to the exhibitors. Manufacturers had their latest tech-toys on display and the people responsible for the designs and the applications were available to talk about the devices. I left there with a new understanding of the technical innovations on display and a fist full of business cards. In the three decades that have passed, I don’t think I have missed more than one or two Expos. If you haven’t been to one, get to the next one. It could be a career altering decision!