“I went to SIMO” was the “I went to EGB” of a whole generation of technology in Spain.
At the IFEMA entrance desk enabled as check-in, no one knew very well what a blogger was or if he could enter SIMO to do his job. It cost a letter from the WSL director and a call to the organization to get it. They also failed (how strange) to write to the first Engadget in the press pass.
It was 2006 and few could then imagine where the content would arrive on the Internet or that 2006 was going to be the last of the SIMO of the great moments. Of the great technology fair in Spain which saw the birth of the current consumer electronics boom and brought the latest developments in consumer electronics closer to the passionate Spaniard about gadgets and technology.
SIMO = Information Room for Office Supplies
Since 1961, every year and during the autumn, the originally called dry call was celebrated in Madrid SIMO. It was a fair for the general public and with some days reserved only for professionals.
Was exclusively oriented to office furniture, which at the time was the closest thing to “technology” in a standard office. Those first editions were held in the old Exhibition Palace of the Madrid Chamber of Commerce, in the heart of Paseo de la Castellana. Then it would go through the Crystal Pavilion until it found its final place at IFEMA.
The first edition of 1961 had more than 40 exhibitors and some 10,000 visitors. Since then the meeting has not stopped growing in both exhibitors and attendees. The most cutting-edge news in photocopiers, typewriters or even counterfeit detectors passed through there.
What was also growing at an unstoppable rate was the weight of the computer and communications equipment to corner office furniture at an external fair.
The long-awaited 80’s
Edition by edition, the SIMO fair would reach its first splendor in the 80s, just with the popularization of computing. Those years saw some of the most important releases in computing and that would mark the future of many users and companies.
Fairs such as those in Hannover, Chicago or Las Vegas hosted launches and presentations of new products that powerful distributors such as Investronica later brought to Spain, prior to their launch at the corresponding SIMO. This is how we learned in Spain about models such as Sinclair’s Spectrum, of whom Investronica was the main partner in Spain.
In the 80’s, SIMO saw the launch of the Spectrum Plus or the world presentation of products “made in Spain” such as the Inves 512 X, based on the Intel 8088
The process that these large distributors followed was a story in itself, as Ricardo García Gete, the director of Investronica, recounted in the golden age of 8-bit equipment. In those early 80’s, they had the exclusive right to introduce Sinclair Research Ltd. products in Spain.
The previous work had several phases, from the translation of the manuals to the creation of specific software. Then, it was time to prepare the presentation of the products at the great fair that was then SIMO. This is how the first Spectrum ZX81 and Osborne 1 arrived in Spain, at first only with the documentation that Investronica had been translating. Then with the teams, who had their sales platform at SIMO and even global launch as was the case at the time of the Plus and QL versions in SIMO 84.
That process, after almost a month’s safaris through the best fairs in the world, especially in Asia, was repeated over and over again. In those pavilions of the Casa de Campo, the new computer products that the Spanish could hardly see in advertisements, were available for meet them, touch them and feel close to what was to come.
The SIMO was one of the great events of the year together with CeBIT or CES in Las Vegas. The Spanish appointment with technology for both companies, users or the press. The moment when technology that without the Internet could not be known beyond other major world fairs, arrived in Spain. And if there was a new product “made in Spain”, such as the Inves 512 X, based on the Intel 8088, its launch took place at SIMO. In this case it was in the ’86 edition.
The first name change
Even maintaining the pull of the original name, SIMO, the references to everything related to its initials were forgotten before the reality of the meeting and the irruption of the PC. And both the consumer and the media were eager for information and “closeness” to that revolution that was already a palpable reality.
SIMO was where you had to be in Spain to know the latest in the market and consumer technology. A must for amateurs and professionals, with problems even gaining access to the avalanche of visitors.
In the 1999 edition, Nokia used the SIMO to show Spain its first mobile phone with a WAP browser, a whole Nokia 7110
In the 90s the fair was officially renamed SIMO TCI (International Fair of Informatics, Multimedia and Communications). In this decade, the Madrid fair continued to gain exhibitors, visitors and relevance in the technology presentation circuit. An example was the arrival of the Nokia 7110, first mobile phone with WAP navigation and that in Spain had its premiere in the SIMO edition of the first days of November 1999.
With the passing of the year 2000, SIMO began to emphasize a trend that had started at the end of the 90s and that little by little would grow in importance at the fair: workshops, presentations and demonstrations of new technologies on the market consumption related to the Internet and what was known at the time as Web 2.0.
2007: the end announced
2004 and 2005 were probably the last major editions of SIMO in terms of size and relevance. The 44th edition, in 2004, boasted almost 800 exhibitors in a total of 65,000 square meters at IFEMA. Then the corridors of SIMO were rivers of consumers, informants and managers of companies and brands. More than 225,000 visitors in that 2004 edition. Operators such as Movistar, Vodafone and Orange. Brands like Intel, Toshiba, Microsoft or HP.
In those editions the Xbox 360 was playable weeks before it was released in Spain. Or find out about market trends for the next few years that would now make us blush in the era of the flexible smartphone. Who would have imagined at the time that the overwhelming landing of digital photo frames would be forgotten so soon. It was the appointment for media such as SamaGame when it came to seeing first-hand products that would arrive in the following months.
The 2006 and 2007 editions, still numerous in attendance, left a strange taste in our mouths. The presence of important brands in stands was reduced. Formats of talks or presentations were imposed more commercial than consumer and always in tow, with exceptions, of what was announced in the reference fairs of the year, both CES in Las Vegas and IFA in Berlin. Y getting that information or demos was already more accessible both for the press and for the user without having to go to SIMO. The same would happen with brands at the beginning of the 2008 crisis.
In the 2007 edition, the organization announced that the event had almost 600 companies and close to 300,000 visitors. However, the 2008 edition was never held. SIMO, as the benchmark Spanish technology fair, had died due to the resignation of many of the fair’s great allies, such as Telefónica or Microsoft. The organization put the event on hold until the appropriate commercial and promotional framework was configured for the participating companies.
The idea of ”divide and conquer” that SIMO applied when other European fairs went down in history only succeeded in delaying the inevitable while degrading the good times of the golden age in the memory of the techie in Spain
Together with the recently started financial crisis, reality left us with a diversification of the original idea so great that the SIMO of the great moments was already unrecognizable.
Faced with the disappearance of other European fairs for various reasons, including the economic crisis that had just begun in the US, the SIMO organization had chosen to unite up to ten simultaneous events at IFEMA: Nursery to stimulate innovation, e-life for the field of digital entertainment, SIMO of knowledge, a documentation fair … all seasoned by more and more numerous forums, debates and events of official organizations that took SIMO as a showcase for the user.
Thus, the electronic certification for companies, the DNI-e or the telegrams through the Internet in Correos and other public services had their launch and publicity in a SIMO. But little more relevant remained in SIMO.
SIMO network or a return to the origins
After the cancellation of the 2008 edition, the organization did not wait for the brands to return the necessary support and made every effort to keep the annual meeting around technology afloat in Spain, but with a somewhat different name: SIMO network. Most vulgar stands, only two pavilions for the 2009 edition and more meeting rooms than product or technology samples.
It happened to be again an event exclusively for professionals and more focused on connectivity and networking than the consumer market that had made it known throughout Spain. Consumers disappeared from its aisles and the visitor profile was now only distributors, SMEs and some end customers. Even for the press, the SIMO stopped making sense due to the little relevance to another way of obtaining information, being able to know the products and the feelings of the final consumers.
SIMO Education as final
This idea of a diversified SIMO, each edition focused on a specific area, did not have much history. In 2013, one of the sections that had been born within the SIMO network would end up becoming what we currently know as SIMO Education.
And with that starting point, already with the acronym SIMO as a simple nostalgic claim, SIMO Education has become in a few editions a fair with its own entity, as a international exhibition of educational technology and innovation which quite well imitates the great European educational fair, the BETT in London, and which already has the necessary relevance within its sector, with more than 10,000 attendees, 150 exhibitors and more than 240 companies present.
What remains now of the SIMO is just the most relevant, what really matters. The memory of who we were there, either as a consumer eager to satisfy his passion for technology or as a professional job at the best moment of the benchmark technology fair in Spain.