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Her First DARPATech

Back story

2 min read

Sally Adee had barely taken off her coat after arriving for her first day of work at IEEE Spectrum last June when she began pleading to attend DARPATech, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s convention. Her request was a little odd—most writers find obscure conferences they absolutely must attend in Honolulu, Paris, Tokyo, or maybe Vegas. Adee, a self-described defense nerd, really wanted to go to DARPATech—but never dreamed we’d actually send her.

We did. Two months later she found herself at the Anaheim Marriott in California, across the street from Disneyland, whose attractions compared poorly with the festivities at DARPATech as far as Adee was concerned. Among the 3000 defense contractors, academics, researchers, and DARPA program managers wandering the enormous hotel, Adee felt like she was at a whole different level of theme park. Instead of cotton candy, ­attendees carried Starbucks cups and DARPATech M&Ms tinted green, yellow, and a sickly, translucent white. The 2007 conference kicked off DARPA’s 50th anniversary, and speakers were introduced with flashing lights and pounding rock music. Some of the music choices were puzzling—one program director jogged to the podium accompanied by a song that began ”It’s no surprise to me; I am my own worst enemy.” The secretary of the Navy was introduced to the chords of the Violent Femmes’ ”Blister in the Sun.”

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Green

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