What were the folks in the hallways talking about? Worry about funding in the short term but cautious optimism a few years down the line. Some optimism on employment; many good places hired in theory this year and most students found postdoc, faculty or industrial positions. I didn't see many students scrambling for jobs. Last time STOC was in Seattle (1989) I was one of those scramblers.
Prabhakar Raghavan, a theorist who now heads Yahoo! Research, gave the first invited talk about some mathematical questions related to Yahoo. Prabhakar spent a considerable part of his talk on sponsored search, the bidding and ranking mechanisms for those who pay to be listed right of the search results. Yahoo currently uses a variant of second-price auctions that is non-truth telling and has some other flaws but is simple enough for people to understand how much they will pay. Google on the other hand use more complicated schemes with nicer properties but most if not all of its users don't really understand the bidding mechanism.
Russell Impagliazzo gave the other invited talk on pseudorandomness, his title slide containing a joke only my generation would get.
Let's secretly replace Al's coffee cup of random bits with pseudorandom bits and see if he notices.Russell's take-home message: Randomness does not help in algorithms but we can't prove it doesn't help until the circuit complexity people (like Russell) get on the ball and prove some good lower bounds.
On a personal note, today I have lived as long as my father. Puts a real perspective on life.