Technological history touched the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) convention in January with the first ever real-time video webcast from a PHC trade show.

Sponsored by Taco, a manufacturer of hydronic products, the live feed ran on the company’s website ( for seven hours daily during the three–day convention. People logging onto Taco’s site during the San Francisco convention could see people strolling through the booth and demonstrations from Taco employees about products.

“The idea actually came up last year before the 1997 ASHRAE convention,” said Tim Smith, Taco’s director of marketing.

At the 1997 ASHRAE convention in Philadelphia, Taco posted still images periodically during the convention. He said Taco had been working on the production of a live webcast for the past year.

This year’s webcast featured both a live audio and video feed.

“We sent out good quality images,” said Smith. “It was a small image, but we were sending out a lot of information.”

Taco’s license agreement allowed for 50 simultaneous hits, Smith said. At its peak, the company had 45 simultaneous feeds running.

“It took us about four months to coordinate the webcast,” said Ric Murray, the webcast’s producer. “But once we arrived in California, it only took two days to get it up and running.”

Murray, a Rhode Island-based freelancer, has worked on multiple products with Taco.

Since the company released its TacoNet software in 1985, Smith said the company has pushed to be the industry’s technological front runner. Last year the company launched a CD-rom “interactive journey,” featuring the company president, John White Jr. The interactive journey, which opens with a Star Trek-type theme, allows users to examine Taco and its products at a leisurely pace.

“We want to satisfy our customers with information instantaneously,” said Smith. “The nature of business keeps changing, and we want to be the easiest company to deal with.”

Murray believes the webcast will lead to educational videos being uploaded to Taco’s website.

“The educational videos will really help their customers,” Murray said. “It all depends on how advanced the technology is.”

The next big push within the company is to upload its catalog on the Internet.

According to Smith, the engineers and contractors biggest concern is making sure the catalog is up-to-date. He said the Internet will eliminate outmoded catalogs.

Smith believes the technology Taco will use at next year’s convention has not even been invented.

“To stay on the edge of technology, we need to see what is available when next year’s convention comes around,” said Smith. “For the time being we’re focusing on other projects and the Web site.”