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6000 Tech Enthusiasts at The Gathering

Posted on 3.26.2008

If You Like Gatherings, Get Yourself to Hamar!

Hamar where? Norway. You know—in the cold country of the European Union.

It all takes place some 80 miles north of Oslo each March where about 6000 tech enthusiasts gather to show their stuff while another 5000+ on the waiting list are turned away.  For five days these current and future wizards of industry each year sleep on the floor and at their work stations, survive on caffeine, eat over-priced snacks, and share a communal bathroom for personal hygiene needs. Why? Maybe it’s to show what they can do; maybe to rub elbows, literally, with fellow techies; or maybe because Cisco or IBM or Microsoft sends recruiters to Hamar to look for new programming talent.

Then there is the sheer energy of being there that excites many—cables that connect up to 6000 work stations, the blinking lights on thousands of monitors that glow through the night, and the sleeping bag lump on the floor with hair sticking out the top. Whatever the reason, this BYOC—Bring Your Own Computer event—does quicken the pulse of its followers. Believers show up with computers, monitors, keyboards, headphones, speakers, microphones, power cables, surge protectors, network cables, device drivers and toothbrush, and with limited plans to sleep.

TG—One of Four Over-The-Top LAN Parties
Begun in 1992, The Gathering then drew about 1100, while the organizers had optimistically expected 600. Now held at Vikingskipet Arena—the Viking Ship Arena, host to the 1994 Olympic speed skating event—it sets new records each year as the world’s largest temporary network.

It is a sophisticated version of a LAN party, operating on a scale not imagined by neighborhood LAN party groups in the 90’s. Yet the goal is similar: “to promote the joy of creativity with the computer university at your fingertips.” (See here for a bit of TG history.)

The Who, Why and How of TG
Computer-savvy travelers from around the world plan more than a year ahead to get a coveted workstation, to volunteer as a part of the support crew, or just to go look it over.  A major focus is on demos—short, self-contained graphics and sound programs—that are a favored part of the event. And while one might expect a heavy commercial motivation for demos, the spirit is more about exhibiting skills of musicians, graphic artists and programmers. Yes, there is prize money, but fame and glory trump the monetary awards. Gaming, networking, and tournaments draw energetic techies, and offer awards that include hardware and even complete computers. And participants take for granted the 2gb Internet connection and the petabyte barrier-breaking network volume.

The infrastructure implications are immense, yet there is no real corporate sponsor that pays all of the bills. It is promoted as free from politics and religion, and the volunteers don’t make any money.

Top Ten Reasons to Go

1. High social factor, good international cheer, English spoken.
2. Several days spent with 6000 of your newest best friends.
3. Equal opportunity humanity—both men and women attend.
4. Close-up stimulus from endless rows of 20” subwoofers hauled in from across the globe.
5. Viking battle cries that erupt randomly from one side of the hall, wave through the crowd, and fade at the other side.
6. Disco balls that cast android glows.
7. Big party feel, heavy download action, endless chat.
8. Demos and duels on 6000 synchronized monitors.
9. Videogame showcase, new product displays, Q & A with developers.
10. Edge to edge sleeping bags in floor rows, on stadium seats, underneath banners, and in outside heated tents, even though “sleep” is a dirty word at TG.

Start Planning Now
The Gathering is one of the four big LAN parties in the world. Others include The Assembly in Finland, The Party in Denmark, and DreamHack in Sweden. And while you could participate in an alternate LAN Party, TG captures the spirit of the tech enthusiast in a unique way that draws back the same attendees year after year.

Volunteers are already planning the March 2009 event, so start planning now. For the 2008 event, seats located on the arena’s cement floor went on sale December 1, 2007 and were sold out by January 13, 2008. Hotels and Hostels are booked in the immediate area months in advance, and trains from Oslo to Hamar fill quickly. Making far-in-advance online reservations for Hostel beds and for train tickets is a must.

So, is this really is the best LAN Party around? Yes. And where else could you make 6000 new friends in five days?

- Information about The Gathering 2008 is at Early postings about TG 2009 will appear there soon.
- See a day-by-day blog report with photos and videos by Joseph Kirby and Andrew Deegear at

About the Contributors:
Dr. Pat LeMay Burr, Distinguished Chair—International Business
Joseph Kirby, HEB International Peace Scholar
Andrew Deegear, HEB International Peace Scholar
University of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, TX 78209 

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