More than 1,500 county business people turned out for a day of human and electronic networking at the Chamber of Commerce's third annual Howard County Expo and Forum at Turf Valley Country Club yesterday.
The exposition's theme, Linking High Technology and Business, was brought to life by one of the country's high-tech wizards, E. C. van Reuth, a scientist who worked on both the "star wars" missile defense and "stealth" radar-evading aircraft projects.
Van Reuth, now a private high-technology consultant, described to county business leaders how a desire to recycle materials and save energy is prompting the development of such unlikely products as ceramic engines and cement razor blades.
"The day may come when we weave airplanes," said van Reuth, explaining that one of humankind's oldest manufacturing processes can be used to make superstrong materials.
Laws requiring recycling and conservation are helping force technology's hand and could eventually mean the end of junkyards.
"We're making it so that you'll have to re-use everything," he said, predicting that automobiles, like glass bottles and aluminum cans, will one day be completely recycled.
"Automobile companies will eventually buy back your car," and use its materials for new cars. After that, they may just lease cars to safeguard the materials, he added.
Besides van Reuth's speech during lunch, expo-goers paying $110 ($95 for chamber members) got a day's worth of seminars on topics ranging from making better use of personal computer networks to planning an international marketing strategy.
Although none of the 75 booths, most costing exhibitors $400, featured spectacular high-tech displays, many business people said new technology had revolutionized their businesses.
At Jessup-based RAI-Rapid's booth, the curious were treated to instant mailers (aka junk mail), complete with an envelope with a laser-printed bar-code address.
When the U.S. Postal Service starts using computers to print bar codes on letters in February, most postal rates will increase, said Neal Ruchman, Rapid's president.
But Rapid and other mailers will be able to keep their rates stable by printing their own bar codes, he said.
Computer technology also helped launch Signs Now, a one-day service that uses computers to make signs from a company's business card, letterhead or any other design, said Barbara Zaslow, president of a planned five-store area franchise that will open its first store in Columbia in three weeks.
Zaslow's general manager, Steven McElroy, took advantage of a seminar on yet another time-saving form of computer magic.
With a $700 set-up and software, a salesman can save hours of file-flipping by punching in the code for a geographic area and getting an instant profile of customers in the area.
In his last sales job, under "low-tech" management, McElroy said, "I constantly missed sales calls. . . . A system like this would have prevented that."
Keynote speeches given during breakfast featured Howard County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo; Barrie G. Christman, president of Mellon Bank; and Michael S. Lofton, deputy director of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development. Lofton was a last-minute replacement for Gov.
William Donald Schaefer.