LOVE it or loath it, if you are involved in the personal computer industry, the gargantuan Comdex Fall Exhibition in Las Vegas is difficult to avoid. Like no other, it is the event that determines what shape the industry takes in the coming year. And believe me, it is big. Spread through the exhibition halls at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, as well as the Hilton Hotel, and the exhibitors space at the Sands Hotel and Casino, Comdex moves in and takes over Las Vegas, if such a thing is possible - for one week each November. By the time Comdex closes, 200,000 trade visitors have passed through its doors to see the wares of some 2,150 personal computer and related industry companies. Next year will be even bigger. We already know this, because Comdex organiser, The Interface Group, says that more than 2,350 companies have put their money down to reserve the premium-priced floorspace for the exhibition. It is impossible to see all of what is on offer at Comdex in its kilometres of exhibition corridors . . . not without a good pair of running shoes, anyway. But the people who are drawn to Comdex are serious technology types. They are easy to spot. These are the men and women you will see at the airport, sitting on the floor with their brand-new integrated CD-ROM multimedia notebook computers plugged directly into airport mains sockets - juicing up their batteries for the ride ahead. (They will probably be talking into a mobile telephone, too.) If you do not think the computer crowds literally conquer Las Vegas, a quick look at hotel room rates will leave you convinced. A room at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas during Comdex was priced at US$249. Yet the hotel advertised a Thanksgiving Special the following week in which rooms were priced at $29. It is a strange environment for a computer show, with its man-made volcanoes erupting like clock-work every half-hour, hourly pirate re-enactments that spill over into hotel lobbies, to the tasteful nightly shows featuring everyone from Wayne Newton to David Copperfield to an act called the California Hardbodies. As if Las Vegas was not weird enough during its 'normal' periods, Comdex adds an unmistakable backdrop of techno-babble. Wherever you go, be it for a burger after midnight, or a coffee first thing in morning, you will find huddles of 'conference people', their conversation littered with RAMs, ROMs, gigabytes and terraflops. For the gadget freak Comdex is, indeed, heaven on earth.