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Doing a demo?

In 1996 I started working on a TV show called The Computer Chronicles, It was on PBS and was in over 250 markets. During that same period of time I used to do a TON of work for ComputerLand. They had a satellite network with downlinks in all of their retails stores that they would use to train their employees.

Back in those days I was involved in shooting literally 1000’s of software demos and I’ve seen the very worst demo artists and I believe I’ve even seen tne very best.

Back in the early 90’s IBM was in the process of selling a brand new operating system to the world. It was CLEARLY the best OS at the time. It was called OS/2. David Barnes was the guru that was chosen to travel the world showing off that OS. HE WAS AMAZING.

The day I first met David he had been asked by ComputerLand to come to the studio and show off OS/2. We had a 1 hour block of time to dedicate to him and after a VERY brief intro from our host David was going to ‘go to town’ and take us thru a tour of the software. We called down from the control room and had the floor manager ask him, “David, you get an hour, what kind of time cues would you like to wrap you up?”

His reply was amazing, “Oh, give me a 5, 4, 3 and a wrap.”

Now, thats not that unusual if you are doing say a 10 minute segment but that meant that David was going to talk for nearly 55 minute before he got ANY CLUE as to how he was doing with his time. Immediatly we knew we had a pro among us.

Often this type of demonstration would be a patch work of edits. Back in those days we didn’t bother editing the peices like we would today. We would utilize the built in editor on the front panel of the 3/4” U-Matic decks we would record on. In other words, we’d plow thru the piece until there was a flub, then we’d find a place where we could pick up. Call down to the talent, “So your last good sentence was, ‘Now lets take a look at those features’” and count him down into that pickup.

Those machines had a 5 to 3 second preroll before they would go into record so we’d count down from 10 seconds and at 3 seconds I’d hit the edit button and we’d make LIVE edits, so to speak, right onto our master tapes. When i type it all out today, it sounds barbaric but at the time, it was really efficient. We did a LOT of work that way.


David Barnes proceeded to push thru this AMAZING DEMO of OS/2 and never missed a beat. He was precise, he was accurate, he was entertaining, he was informative and he was EVEN funny.

We counted down to the end of the hour, as he had requested, and by the time I faded to black it was probably 59:58 or so…Bob Briggs, the director of the show, and I looked at each other and all we could say was… “HOLY SHIT THAT WAS AMAZING”… We had never seen anyone THAT GOOD and THAT PERFECT before. And the content was incredible.


From the back of the control room the producer chimed in and said, “OK, I feel bad for saying it but… He was talking to the end customer. This video is for our SALES staff. We don’t him to tell us how much we’ll like the software, we want him to tell us how great it will be to SELL the software.” As much as we didn’t want to admit it, the piece was flawed…

Bob and I immediately started to think, “Well, where could go cut in on the tape and let him do a wrap up and spin the whole hour into the message the the client needed.”

David was soo fluid and his demo was so “multithreaded” that you couldn’t really cut into it because multiple things were coming to a close right up till the very end. We decided we needed to talk to David who, while he was waiting for us with the final word was still showing off the OS to the crew on the floor. His response was amazing…

“Oh, yea thats a good point… why don’t we just do it again.”…


Yea, David was offering to do his entire 1 hour demo a SECOND time!

Bob yelled out to the studio floor, “Saddle UP!!” Everyone took their places and Bob and I headed up to the control room, I grabbed another 60 Minute U-Matic tape because the first demo was sooo amazing we couldn’t imagine blowing over it, (although we often did back in those days).

We counted down into the show, again, we introduced David, again and he began his demo, AGAIN.

The second pass thru was just as amazing and just as fluid but he took the time to spin the demo at every opportunity he could to explain how a sales person could better SELL OS/2 and not how an end user would ENJOY OS/2.

Sure enough, just seconds before the end of our 1 hour block of time, David wrapped up and we faded to black. AMAZING!! It was just as incredible as the first one.

That night, my buddy Doug Johnson and I went to a user group meeting in Menlo Park where David was doing a live demonstration to a few hundred nerds in a theater and we watched him AGAIN. He really was just THAT good.

Below, I’m going to paste in a bunch of links to various clips I’ve found of David, some are from that era and some are more recent.

This is a TV commercial for OS/2 Warp, you can barely see David in the piece.

Here’s David in 1995 talking about a new thing called “The Internet”.

But perhaps the most amazing demo of OS/2 happened in 1993 in Houston. David was asked to come and go “head to head” with Doug Davis from Microsoft. The Microsoft guy drew straws and went first, got up and did his presentation, mostly using PowerPoint. David then gets up in Part 2 and BLOWS THE CROWD AWAY.

This video was produced by some guy who apparently had some wedding video experience but Microsoft was embarrassed by their performance that they tried to get the guy selling it in the back of computer magazines to stop selling it. This YouTube video really is historical.

HAL-PC 1993 OS/2 vs NT Shootout Part 1

HAL-PC 1993 OS/2 vs NT Shootout Part 3

Can’t find Part 2


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Reader Comments (1)

Chris, it's been a long long time! It seems you and I are having one of those "It's a small small world" experiences. I still spend my life doing demos, but I got tired of so much travel and decided to try to make demo videos at home. The only experience I had with video was being on the other side of the lens and watching guys like you work. My first attempts consisted of a green sheet, Home Depot shop lights, feeding audio from a lav directly into a mixer, and trying to cut a key from DV source. Needless to say, they sucked.

In my continued pursuit of improving the videos, I found myself learning to use CC3W on a website from some guy named Chris Fenwick. I thought I recognized the name, but it wasn’t until I went digging through your archives that I realized we worked together! Too cool.

I remember when we did that shoot together. Good times.

Anyway, I'm still doing demos full time, both on the road and here at home (it seems my career has gone nowhere <smile>). Here’s a video I made last week: It’s nothing special, but I wanted to let you know that, after all these years, you had an influence in what I’m doing!


** As you can tell, the video was one contiguous take. I don’t like editing demos because it seems like I’m trying to hide something. I was going for 20 minutes for that video — I came in at 19:27. But, it’s always better to go short than go long, right?
June 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Barnes

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