CeBIT 2000: The history of CeBIT:
  • From a popular sector of the Hannover Fair to the World Center for Information Technology, Telecommunications and Office Automation

With 7,515 exhibitors (4,500 from Germany and 2,900 from abroad) and a net display area of more than 408,000 square meters, CeBIT 2000 will reassert its singular role among the world's IT and telecoms fairs. The decision of Deutsche Messe AG in autumn of 1996 to create the consumer-oriented "CeBIT HOME" trade fair paved the way for the "re-professionalization" of CeBIT Hannover. In little more than a decade, CeBIT has developed from being part of the Hannover Fair into the world's leading showplace for information technology, telecommunications and office automation.

For the past 14 years thousands of suppliers and users from all over the world have come together every year in March at CeBIT Hannover. The CeBIT premiere in 1986 was the outcome of a long and complicated decision-making process. The computer industry had become a key feature of the Hannover Fair and had contributed to its unique status as the world's biggest trade show for capital goods. However, the computer exhibitors were having to contend with an increasing number of non-specialists at their stands.

By the late 1950s the "office equipment industry" (as it was then called) already ranked as the third largest exhibitor group at the Hannover Fair. The Fair reflected the "electronics boom" in the 1960s and provided the launching pad for numerous technological highlights. In 1965, for example, Heinz Nixdorf (who was later to become one of Germany's best known entrepreneurs) presented his legendary 820 universal computer.

In 1970 Deutsche Messe AG underscored the importance of office equipment at the Hannover Fair when it opened the new Hall 1 adjacent to the northern entrance of the exhibition site. This massive building complex consisted of three levels: an underground garage with parking space for 2,000 exhibitors; a ground-floor exhibition hall covering a total area of 70,300 square meters; and a roof level with 750 prefabricated cabins. In 1984 Hall 1 found its way into the Guinness Book of Records as the "world's largest single-story exhibition hall".

The inauguration of the new hall coincided with the search for a new name for this exhibit category. One suggestion was "CeBOT" - the German acronym for "Center for Office and Organization Technology". However, the Exhibitors' Advisory Committee decided in favor of "CeBIT - Center for Office and Information Technology", not least because the syllable "BIT" (the smallest unit of information handled by a computer) alluded to the growing importance of electronic data processing in the Seventies, and even more so in the Eighties, when PC manufacturers flocked to the Hannover Fair.

Nevertheless, in 1970 no one could have foreseen the extent to which the data processing market would divide into more and more segments and grow at a breathtaking rate. The gigantic capacities in Hall 1 were soon exhausted. At the end of the 1970s Deutsche Messe AG decided to allocate Halls 2 and 18 to CeBIT. At the beginning of the 1980s CeBIT extended into Hall 3. However, this was just a drop in the bucket. More and more data processing and software companies, not to mention the growing group of PC manufacturers, wanted to used CeBIT as a presentation platform. The original "Center for Office and Information Technology" had now become the "World Center for Office, Information and Communications Technology".

Nevertheless, numerous potential exhibitors were still excluded from CeBIT for the simple reason that Deutsche Messe AG was unable to offer them stand space. In 1980 the product category "information and communications technology" at the Hannover Fair was outranked only by electrical engineering in terms of the number of exhibitors. In spite of the allocation of additional halls it was not possible to reduce the long waiting lists. Likewise it was impossible to meet the demand for additional stand space on the part of established exhibitors. A split between CeBIT and the Hannover Fair appeared inevitable.

In November 1984 Deutsche Messe AG finally announced that, with effect from 1986, the Hannover Fair CeBIT would take place as a separate event in March, followed one month later by the Hannover Fair Industry. This was not an easy decision. It was preceded by months of discussion with the chief executives of the major exhibiting companies and their industrial associations. The debate centered on the way the market was likely to develop and the potential risks involved. The most important question was: "What happens if we do nothing?"

In 1985 the last "amalgamated" Hannover Fair underlined the urgent necessity of hiving off CeBIT as a separate entity. Compared with 1970 the number of IT exhibitors had increased two-fold to 1,300 - and a further 870 companies were on the waiting list. The rented stand space had grown two and a half times to 130,600 square meters, while the number of visitors had risen almost fivefold. With almost 7,000 exhibitors and over 800,000 visitors, the 1985 Hannover Fair had reached its absolute capacity limits.

The decision to create a separate trade show for exhibitors of office, information and communications technology was far from non-controversial. At the 1985 Hannover Fair the separation of CeBIT was the number-one topic of discussion. The pros and cons were still being hotly debated in the immediate run-up to the CeBIT premiere in 1986. The advocates of the split pointed to the extended exhibition space and improved infrastructure. The opponents argued that an independent CeBIT devoid of an industrial background would lose some of its appeal.

Exhibitors, visitors and Deutsche Messe AG thus looked forward to the CeBIT premiere with a mixture of suspense and trepidation. The moment of truth came on 12th March 1986, when 2,142 exhibitors presented their products, systems and services on a net display area in excess of 200,000 square meters. In that year the display category "Telecommunications" was included in the CeBIT line-up for the first time - with a "modest" 190 exhibitors. At CeBIT 2000 the telecommunications section will boast over 1,100 exhibitors on a total display area of more than 100 000 square meters.

With 334,400 visitors the first independent CeBIT got off to a very good start. Nevertheless, the debate about the split continued for a number of years. After all it was the most momentous decision ever taken by Deutsche Messe AG and one of the biggest operations ever carried out in the international trade fair industry. CeBIT carved out a stronger and stronger position in the trade fair market, due in no small part to continuous refinements to the concept by Deutsche Messe AG. The major show categories became ever more clearly defined, and exhibitors took advantage of the increased space capacity to present their products in multiple show sectors.

CeBIT rapidly developed into the largest and most important IT event of the year. The number of exhibitors and visitors increased continuously - despite freak weather conditions on two occasions. Two days before CeBIT '87 opened its gates, a sudden blizzard swept over the city of Hannover, leaving one meter of snow in its wake. The show nonetheless got off to a punctual start thanks to the tireless efforts of countless helpers. "SnowBIT", as the fair came to be called, attracted 406,474 visitors. The weather was equally inclement in 1992, when high winds, hail, thunder and snow showers lashed the exhibition grounds. Here again, this did nothing to deter 648,905 CeBIT visitors.

By the beginning of the 1990s CeBIT had achieved the ultimate international breakthrough. Although the IT industry was weathering a heavy recession and several established universal suppliers were forced to carry out far-reaching internal restructuring measures, this did not have a negative impact on the CeBIT attendance figures. New data processing strategies such as client-server computing, outsourcing and data warehousing came to the fore. Thousands of visitors flocked to Hannover to find out about the latest developments in these areas, as well as in the field of network computing, multimedia and the Internet.

The Hannover exhibition center (now completely at the disposal CeBIT) was becoming more and more cramped, even though Deutsche Messe AG had begun to replace some old exhibition halls with new ones. The waiting list of companies wanting to take part in CeBIT began to lengthen again. Visitors were reminded of the overcrowded situation at the Hannover Fair immediately prior to the split. The halls were full to overflowing. In-depth discussions between industry professionals were virtually impossible. With 6,111 exhibitors and 755,326 visitors (including 100,000 from abroad) CeBIT '95 entered the record books as a "mega event". In view of its growing appeal to private visitors, however, CeBIT ran the risk of losing its professional character. Between 1989 and 1995 the number of private visitors leapt from 60,000 to 218,000.

Deutsche Messe AG responded: A few months after the end of CeBIT '95 it announced the creation of a new show targeted at distributors, SOHO (small office, home office) customers and private users of PCs, multimedia and the Internet. This CeBIT offshoot - called "CeBIT HOME, the World of Home and Consumer Electronics" - was to take place every two years. At the same time the admission prices at CeBIT '96 were raised by a significant margin.

As a result of these measures, the number of private visitors declined steeply. Another new change introduced at that time was the reduction of CeBIT 96 from eight down to seven days, in response to exhibitor demand.

CeBIT is now the unchallenged international showcase for information and telecommunications technology. Among its "competitors" CeBIT is the only trade fair that has recorded sustained growth. CeBIT 2000 will not only set a new record of more than 7,500 exhibiting companies, but will also have the highest number of foreign firms in attendance (2,921, from 63 different nations) of any trade show in the world. In fact, CeBIT is not only the world's largest trade fair for the IT industry, but is the largest trade show of any kind, anywhere in the world.

CeBIT exhibitors and visitors also continue to benefit from the ongoing improvements to the site infrastructure. In preparation for the World Exposition EXPO 2000, Deutsche Messe AG has initiated a major modernization program at the Hannover exhibition center. When CeBIT opens its doors to the public in February 2000 visitors will enjoy an even better range of facilities than in previous years. Additional parking will be available at the south-east corner of the exhibition grounds, with a new multi-story car park providing space for 1,150 cars. On the east side of the grounds, a new entrance is being created which leads over the roof of Hall 8. From this entrance, to be known as "Ost/East 3", a 30 m wide bridge will span the fast ring road to give access to the EXPO Plaza and the parking area on the east side of the grounds.

Visitors will also find a number of new connecting links between exhibition halls, which will enable them to stay dry under all weather conditions when walking round the exhibition. The links between Halls 1 and 2, 2 and 3, 11 and 12, 20 and 21 and 22 and 23 will be completed in time for CeBIT 2000.

A major architectural highlight for visitors will be the EXPO roof, which spans the open-air site between Halls 12 and 26. The filigree roof structure consists of ten wooden "umbrellas", which enclose an area the size of two football pitches. Beneath this spreading canopy, four new pavilions are being constructed. Due for completion in time for CeBIT 2000, these pavilions will house displays by exhibiting firms in the category of "Telecommunications".

CeBIT 2000 (24th February until 1st March 2000) will take place at the world's most modern and attractive exhibition site, with excellent road, rail and air travel connections. This will be an appropriate setting for the 30th anniversary of this Mecca for office automation, information technology and telecommunications.

Source: The official site of CeBIT 2000

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