I attended my first DAC when I was 26 years old. I had been an AE for exactly four months. I had never been to a trade show. In my tweed jacket, I was dressed completely wrong for the Las Vegas heat. It was 1986, and I had just joined Gateway Design Automation as the first AE for Verilog. We didn't even have a booth at DAC -- we had a suite upstairs in the Hilton, and we were doing demos in the booth of CAECO, a schematic capture partner.
Since then, I've been to all but two DACs. It has become one of my favorite weeks of the year right up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving (almost), despite the fact that it often coincides with my wedding anniversary!
Why? Because it is at DAC that I feel most strongly the sense of community that exists within our EDA industry. At DAC, we not only get a chance to show everyone what we've got, but we get to connect with old friends and meet new ones. We get to remember how we worked together to change the world (or at least tried hard), and plot new ways to do so in the future. We get to find out what everyone else is up to. And we get to do it in a concentrated burst of high-energy activity that spans the professional and the personal in a way that integrates these two parts of our lives like no other.
Those two DACs that I missed? I had left the industry for a couple of years, in which I learned a lot about marketing and went to a bunch of other shows. And I can tell you that none of them matched DAC in terms of the comraderie and sense of industry cohesion that we find at DAC. Although we compete fiercely for customer budgets, when it comes right down to it we all work together -- if we haven't worked together in the past, or don't currently, then we probably will in the future.
The bottom line is that I feel part of a COMMUNITY in EDA, and this manifests itself in physical proximity only at DAC. Being able to see my friends and colleagues old, new, and future face to face is the biggest reason that I love DAC.