BALTIMORE, Mar. 10 -- OFC 2000 concluded today at the Baltimore Conference Center. Nearly 18,000 attended this year's show, an increase of 50 percent over 1999. More than 475 companies filled the exhibit halls, many with multiple-space and multiple-story booths. Traffic was brisk throughout the show, and especially so on Wednesday morning when OSA, the conference organizer, set aside a block of time free from technical sessions to allow attendees full access to the exhibit floor. A sampling of exhibitors found overall satisfaction with both the quantity and quality of inquiries at the show. Several exhibitors commented that the size of the exhibit coupled with the abundance of attendees made long, detailed visits a rarity. Some long-time observers of OFC noted that the thrust for many at this year's conference appeared to be to establish a presence in the industry. A number of this year's exhibitors were new to OFC; with the communications revolution in full swing, companies that once were strictly laser- or optics-based have now acquired communications-oriented firms or expanded their own product base. OFC served as the showcase for many companies' new capabilities. Of particular note at this year's show was the increased presence of large network-oriented companies amidst the usual components firms. Many attendees and exhibitors at OFC 2000 also remarked upon the noticeable presence of venture capitalists at the show. Rumors of possible mergers, acquisitions and other financials deals abounded on the exhibit floor.