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On the Comedy Circuit

A guy walks into a trade show, and he says to the technician...

March 08, 2001

Comedian Sinbad has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including his own short-lived series, "The Sinbad Show." And he's performed at numerous comedy venues--from intimate clubs to big college auditoriums. He's also a regular at computer trade shows--not as a performer, but as an enthusiast. Sinbad is one of Hollywood's most visible techies, especially when it comes to Macintosh computers.

He also has been involved in several computer industry events, including the prestigious TED Conference and the ThinkQuest Internet Web site creation competition, which each year gives out $1 million in student scholarships.

Sinbad, 44, lives in Los Angeles.

DESKTOP: I have about eight of them--I can't throw any of the old ones away. They are part of my history--I look at them and remember where I was in my career when I had them. Some people collect stamps or shoes or cars. I get a computer, upgrade it to death, then hold on to it.

Q. How did you get started with computers?

When I was in high school, I thought computers would be cool. I took a Fortran [computer code] class and thought it was boring. There was no desktop back then, and I thought there was nothing there for me. I was not enough of a nerd to get involved.

Then in the 1980s, I was on tour with the Pointer Sisters and I was watching the keyboard players, who were the first to get into technology in a big way. When they played the song "Jump," it was all programmed in, and I thought that was cool as heck.

I went to a computer fair at Cal State Northridge in 1985 thinking I would get myself a computer, and they were all talking technical stuff I didn't understand at all. I ran out of there with my tail between my legs. But I said, "Sinbad, you have got to learn this." I read a book on computers and went back. I met this guy at the Macintosh booth who showed me how simple a Mac was, and that was it for me.

Q. What do you use now?

I have a G4 and a G3. I have an old six-slot 2fx Mac that I use as a server at home for the network I've set up.

Q. Why do you need a network at home?

Home is no different from a business anymore for a lot of us. We can have everything we need there. Lately, I've been compressing videos of my stand-up routines and storing them. I eventually want to be involved in the making of independent films that can be edited at home.

Q. You are still all Mac?

No. I have a Sony Vaio and an HP and one I put together myself for the experience. You can do anything you want on a Mac, but it's not always easy to get the software you need. I used to fight to the death for my Mac, but then I thought, "This is a world that will be united, just like people. Instead of fighting the PC, I will embrace it."

LAPTOP: I had one of the first Mac portables that weighed about 5,000 pounds. That's one I don't use anymore. I have an iBook.

HAND-HELD: I got my first one, a Psion, in 1987.

Q. You really are an early adopter.

Yes, but I understand what goes with that. You can't get mad when things get better later on; you have to expect it. After the Psion, I had a Sharp Wizard, then a Palm and now I have a Visor because it has slots where options and more memory can be added. I like options; I don't like feeling stuck.

Q. Salespeople must love it when they see you coming.

Actually, I get a lot of this stuff free at trade shows. They give them to me to try out.

Q. What do you use your Visor for?

My schedule, names and addresses. I use the little portable keyboard to do writing on it sometimes.

BOOKMARKED SITES: I have a lot of sites marked on home schooling. I'm thinking of doing home schooling with my kids and some friends next year.

Q. Are you worried your kids will get too involved in computers?

My kids are not tech freaks. They are always out playing ball. Computers are nothing special to them--they don't make it any more fun to write a book report.

Other sites I go to are Tonos (, which is a music site started by Babyface and others. I go to some Apple sites, and I mark a lot of sites temporarily, like now I am looking through physical fitness equipment sites.

CELL PHONE: My Nokia is my workhorse. But what I am really waiting for is the Motorola Accompli 009 [coming out later this year] that combines a telephone, PDA and Web access all in a flip-up phone with a little keyboard.

HOME THEATER SYSTEM: I've been waiting for that stuff to get better before I invest in a system. I'm thinking that I will put one in myself this spring, but I don't want to spend the crazy money--no screens that retract into the ceiling or anything like that.

I think the real reason I've held off is that I still love going to the movies.


--As told to DAVID COLKER

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