Beginning in 2006, I have blogged each year at the SPIE Advanced Lithography Symposium, the major event of the year in the field of lithography and patterning. Each morning of the conference I would wake up very early and write a post about my impressions from the day before. (A complete collection of these “conference diaries” can be found here.) I have always enjoyed the process of writing, and even more enjoyed the reactions these posts got. Numerous people, unable to attend, would following along with my posts and capture just a small sense of what this fantastic event was all about. Putting my thoughts into words has always been clarifying for me, with the added benefit of helping me organize the massive amount of information that was flooding over me, with the hope that some if that knowledge might stick.
This blogging tradition is just one more casualty of the crazy pandemic year. At last year’s conference we were all talking about Covid, using hand sanitizer, and wondering whether it would actually turn into a pandemic. I think, in hindsight, we were very lucky that the 2,000 attendees had no known transmissions during the conference. Within two weeks of the end of AL 2020 much of the country began shutting down.
And now it is one year later. An in-person conference is out of the question. Instead, SPIE has created a “Digital Forum” for AL 2021. There will be a few “live” events sprinkled throughout the week, but all of the technical talks have been prerecorded and are available for viewing at any time during the week to conference “attendees”. The registration fee for the conference is about half the cost for attending in-person last year. The first live event will be the conference kick-off on Monday (8am pacific time).
Of course, I will miss being there in person, seeing old friends and making new ones, talking in the hallways, drinking too much coffee in the mornings and beer in the evenings, laughing and learning, even doing a little business on the side. I will miss seeing the audience when I give a talk. I will miss approaching the microphone to ask a question after listening to someone else’s talk. But given our current reality, I am looking forward to attending this week’s on-line events and binge-watching technical talks. I’ll take advantage of the unique benefits of asynchronous viewing, slowing down or speeding up the flow of information to my needs and desires. It won’t be perfect, but I think it will be good. Let the Digital Forum begin!