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EddieDX4
March 2nd, 2009, 11:10 AM
Hard times call for hard measures...such as venturing into my local thrift store.

I decided to visit the Goodwill store near my house, hoping for the best but ready for great disappointments. As soon as I stepped foot inside the store, the stench of old "fresh out of the attic/damp closet" clothes saturated my nostrils and reminded me of the many reasons why I hadn't set foot inside a thrift store in the naming of computer history preservation for a few years.

Once I lost my sense of smell, I proceeded straight back to the section that, from far away, is merely recognizable by the variety of old bookshelf speakers covered in the cheapest faux wood laminates known to man.

As I approach the isles in that vicinity, I spot the usual collection of old-but-not-exactly-vintage computers with their cases half-open and missing random plastics/drive-bay covers. Buried in the rubble, a little shimmering logo pops up... Gateway 2000... Golden, striped G and all.

I fast-walk towards it, in fear that another vintage geek might be lurking, hiding between the 70's suits isles, and grab a hold of it. It's a P4D-66 desktop (i486dx2/66)! I quickly do the mandatory visual inspection and find no missing plastics or even metal expansion slot covers... The case also had very few and minor scuffs, the majority of which were surface stains that buffed out the second I rubbed them with my finger.

I steal a cart from some old lady that was too busy checking out an old couch, and put the beast in the cart. Just because, I decided to check out the old monitors isle... 17" eMachines this, 17" Compaq that... When suddenly I spot a monitor that just "didn't fit in" with the rest... It was small... 15" small... But I'm talking early to mid-90's 15" small (bubbly-rounded corners on the bezel, etc...) It was the matching Gateway 2000 CrystalScan 1572 DG! I couldn't believe it. The bastard that donated this stuff had blessed me with an almost entire system. The monitor was in equally great condition, which I couldn't believe.

So, now I have a bit of an adrenaline rush, which gave me the jolt I needed to dig into the keyboards shelf. By now people are looking at me funny, as I fill my cart with keyboards to get the top ones out of the way... Unfortunately, after all the digging, the best I could find were a pair of Gateway (not 2000) keyboards with their silly multimedia volume controls, etc. They just didn't look right, so I moved on.

I'm getting ready to wrap up and call it a day at the register, when I spot a strange little pizza box case burried under a bunch of old Altec speakers... I turn it around and realize it's a PS/2 E! Okay, that one wasn't really as exciting, but it was still a somewhat cool find. I checked and the front and rear PCMCIA slots were empty, so I figured it might not even have the HDD in, but I grabbed it anyway. I could always pair this up with my IBM 12" VGA monitor and turn it into a color terminal. The best part about it, however, was that it had no price tag on it, so I got it for just $3.99.

So, fast forward to my house and survey the damage. The P4D-66 has 16MB of RAM, had no HDD (most came with a 540mb), but it does have a fairly decent IDE controller card so it took a 560mb Samsung drive I had laying around and found it without me fiddling with the BIOS (the controller has an extended IDE BIOS that loads after the machine posts). It also has a combo 3.5"/5.25" drive occupying the top 5.25" bay, and a 2x CD-ROM drive in the middle 5.25" bay (there was a Bookshelf '94 CD inside...hehe.) The 3.5" vertical bay is unused and properly covered with the original plastic cover. It also has an Ensoniq Soundscape sound card (wave table and MT32 emulation), a Gateway 2000 28.8k FAX/Modem, and a STB Lightspeed ET4000/W32p based PCI VGA card (with 1MB). I found all the drivers I needed online and quickly filled its drive with a fresh copy of MS DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11.

The monitor works like a charm, bright picture, no flaws whatsoever.

The PS/2 E, at first, was a bit of a disappointment. When I would hit the power button it would flash on and off immediately. The button was not "clicking" on, so I figured it was broken. As I grabbed the case to move the computer, I realized it wasn't all the way in by about 1mm... I snapped it into place and the button worked immediately.

That one has more humble specs. It's an IBM 486SLC2/50 (which, as I understand, are more 386 cores) and has 4mb of RAM. The surprising part is that they did leave the HDD in it... 120mb. It still has the IBM DOS 5.02 version in it with the PCMCIA utils, etc. Not bad for a machine that will likely serve a single purpose at some point. Still haven't decided what to do with it, but it was $4 so I'm not in a hurry to get my "money's worth". As I mentioned before, likely a color terminal.

So, there's my thrift store weekend adventure story. I know, I know... No TRS-80 Model 4, or Lisa, but I think for less than $30 and 20 minutes of my life, the two finds weren't too shabby. Especially in their condition.

What's your story? :cool:

gerrydoire
March 2nd, 2009, 11:34 AM
I bought an IBM XT on ebay for hundreds of dollars, only exciting thing in my life lately...

barythrin
March 2nd, 2009, 11:49 AM
Cool. I wonder when I'll be excited about 386 and 486's, although that IBM system I would have grabbed :-)

It's been pretty dry pickings here, plus a girlfriend who's been helping pick up a lot of the computers in the house so she's a bit more homicidal if I get something than usual so I also haven't looked a lot.

Only cool thing that I found and need to check into was at Half-Price Books clearance area I found a book on all the TSR Pool of Radiance games (all the PoR in one book). I passed on it the first time but as I was leaving the store still having the maps and stories that I glimpsed at in the book going through my head I ran back in to grab it and still need to figure out if SSI ended up doing some set like that or not.

Unknown_K
March 2nd, 2009, 01:01 PM
SSI released a couple compilations of their gold box SSI games.

I have one that included one cdrom, 2 code where (one is double sided) and a huge silver edition manual (just shows how to setup the programs and has all the journal entries).

My edition has gateway to the savage frontier, Treasures of the savage frontier, hillsfar, Pool of radiance, curse of the azure bonds, secrets of the silver blades, and pools of darkness.

As far as the gateway goes, the 486/66 series was one of my favorites along with the curved case and matching keyboard. You got a nice find there.

Terry Yager
March 2nd, 2009, 01:17 PM
While in Caro, I popped into their version of a GoodWill store. As my nostrils were assailed by spray-on artificial New-Clothes Scent, I was nearly blinded by the already too bright ceiling lighting reflecting off the squeaky-clean floors, being refracted and intensified by the well-buffed fresh wax job. I knew I would not be able to stay long in that ambiance, so I moved as quickly as possible through the color-coded racks of well-laundered textile products, to the very rear of the store, where I just knew they will have relegated their less-desirable, albeit, still grossly-overpriced items, the sort of which might be interesting to myself.

Shading my eyes to block as much light as possible, short of completely blinding myself, I managed to scan the shelves just enough to confirm my worst suspicion that there was absolutely nothing in the entire store worth the effort of dragging home, much less having held my breath for a full 3.7 minutes. Everything was so shiny and new-looking, not at all vintage. I ran back to the exit, bowling over a couple of well-dressed old ladies in my haste, and out into the fresh smog empty-handed and gasping for breath, a sadder but wiser man.

--T

tezza
March 2nd, 2009, 02:09 PM
Good story Eddie and Lol Terry.

We don't have "Goodwill-type' shops here in New Zealand (at least to my knowledge). However, we do have "second-hand"-stores in my town. I've never seen computers in them.

Tez

Vint
March 2nd, 2009, 02:11 PM
You guys slay me :D

A fun thread to read. Brightens my day.

EddieDX4
March 2nd, 2009, 02:26 PM
lol @Terry

In the DVD release of my story, there will be a deleted scenes section that will contain the 15 minutes of my life directly preceding my arrival at Goodwill...

I had actually stopped at The Salvation Army store. I was just too embarassed to include it in my story, but Terry just gave me the courage to admit to it. You will have to buy the DVD at your local 7 Eleven for the agonizing details.

:drunk:

Tiberian Fiend
March 2nd, 2009, 05:08 PM
I bought an IBM XT on ebay for hundreds of dollars, only exciting thing in my life lately...

They really worth that much, now? They had a whole pile of them in a store room behind my classroom in middle school (this was around 1997-8). My teacher let me rebuild them instead of doing my schoolwork. First computers I ever worked on. I got six of them to work, as I recall. They were junk at the time, but they were a lot cleaner then the XT's I see on eBay. Most of them even had working original full-height hard and floppy drives and IBM CGA monitors. The county school board here has auctions regularly where they sell old computer stuff. I'm going to try to go to the next one and see if they have something like that.

The only computer equipment I ever saw at a thrift shop was a terminal at a church thrift shop someone had given them. Then again, I've never been to a thrift shop to look for computers. I doubt they'll have anything where I live, but I guess wouldn't hurt to take a look.

strollin
March 2nd, 2009, 05:29 PM
My thrift store adventure:

A few weeks ago I stopped at our local Salvation Army store. They had a TI-99 in its original box priced at $44. I thought about it but decided not to buy it. On my way out the door I saw a flyer stating that in a few days they were to have a sale where everything in the store was 50% off. I returned on sale day with the intention of buying the TI-99. Had to park a block away since the parking lot was full. I went inside and waded thru the throngs of people to get to the back where the electronics stuff was. The TI-99 was still there so I opened the box and found there was no documentation (which is about what I expected) but there were 2 AC adapters, neither of which could have been for the TI-99 due to having the wrong plug ends. There also was no RF converter for hooking up to a TV so even at $22, I walked away from it. I was glad I decided not to buy it when I saw how long the line was to check out! People were lined up with carts filled to overflowing buying all the junk they could at 50% off.

EddieDX4
March 2nd, 2009, 06:10 PM
My thrift store adventure:

A few weeks ago I stopped at our local Salvation Army store. They had a TI-99 in its original box priced at $44. I thought about it but decided not to buy it. On my way out the door I saw a flyer stating that in a few days they were to have a sale where everything in the store was 50% off. I returned on sale day with the intention of buying the TI-99. Had to park a block away since the parking lot was full. I went inside and waded thru the throngs of people to get to the back where the electronics stuff was. The TI-99 was still there so I opened the box and found there was no documentation (which is about what I expected) but there were 2 AC adapters, neither of which could have been for the TI-99 due to having the wrong plug ends. There also was no RF converter for hooking up to a TV so even at $22, I walked away from it. I was glad I decided not to buy it when I saw how long the line was to check out! People were lined up with carts filled to overflowing buying all the junk they could at 50% off.

One thing I've noticed between Goodwill vs Salvation Army is that at the Goodwill stores, the employees appear a bit more savvy... They organize computers and usually devices that have AC adapters are grouped with their respective adapters (if possible, rubberbands are used), to make sure they don't get lost or mis-arranged.

Salvation Army is like a free for all. Kind of scary.

Unknown_K
March 2nd, 2009, 07:10 PM
Salvation army is pricey and stuff gets totaly destroyed the longer it sits on the shelf.

There is a local thrift (forget the name) that has cheap prices but you rarely see a computer there, just pieces and parts of them (keyboards, scanners, monitors, mice, consoles).

vwestlife
March 2nd, 2009, 08:19 PM
One thing I've noticed between Goodwill vs Salvation Army is that at the Goodwill stores, the employees appear a bit more savvy... They organize computers and usually devices that have AC adapters are grouped with their respective adapters (if possible, rubberbands are used), to make sure they don't get lost or mis-arranged.

Salvation Army is like a free for all. Kind of scary.
Around here, it's exactly the opposite. The Goodwill stores just pile the stuff onto the shelves, and all electical items are grouped together... so you have a 27-inch TV sitting on top of a waffle iron sitting on top of an answering machine... sitting on top of a Walkman. And the prices are often insane. I've seen them price a used DVD player with no remote at $49.99 -- you can buy a brand new progressive-scan one for that much!

The Salvation Army near me is much better organized, but also has a much smaller selection of electronics. They usually have a VCR playing a movie hooked up to the TVs they're selling, to give a live demo... a nice touch. And if they're selling any stereo systems or computers, they usually have them all hooked up and ready to be tried out. But I've never seen any vintage computer stuff there. Usually they just have a typical beige box Pentium II running Windows 98.

The best I've found so far is a chain of thrift stores called "Unique". They have a fair amount of older computer equipment on the shelves from time to time, and their prices are VERY reasonable... ranging from very reasonable to ridiculously cheap! The downside is that they don't test stuff before they put it on the shelves, and no returns are allowed, so you have to do your best to try the stuff out in the store before you buy it.

rebeltaz
March 2nd, 2009, 08:50 PM
Where I'm at, we have both the Salvation Army and Goodwill, but more than anything they're clothing stores. We also have America's Thrift Store - formerly Alabama Thrift Store.

I found a complete almost-new still-in-the Commodore Plus/4 for $4! I snatched that up so fast my girlfriend thought I was having a breakdown. I get a LOT of robots from there, but not so much in the way of computers.

Other than that, they tend to make a point out of separating everything so they can sell it for more. If it doesn't come in in a box, the power supply winds up in one area, the unit in another, the manuals shoved on a shelf in the cooking section (they're not very organized) - and that is if they even put it out at all. I saw a remote control model airplane in there once and I swear - they had the airplane behind the counter for $100 and they had the remote control that went with it on the other side priced separately for another $50! I mean, that doesn't even make sense. And the girl behind the counter agreed with me. She said that she told them the same thing, but it didn't make any difference.

I used to work at one of their locations as the TV technician / small appliance repairman, and I know from experience that if something came in that was "too old" it headed for the trash. And God forbid someone try to rescue it from the dumpster. Their next stop, if they were caught, was jail.

Not to mention that, like vwestlife was saying about the ones in New Jersey, their prices are usually unreal. I've seen then try to get $200 for a 300 MHz iMac with no keyboard or mouse. Ten year old 19" TVs with awful pictures for $65 - $85. I even see those free AOL discs that everybody used to get in the mail marked $5! I mean, come on!

Fallo
March 2nd, 2009, 09:47 PM
Where I'm at, we have both the Salvation Army and Goodwill, but more than anything they're clothing stores. We also have America's Thrift Store - formerly Alabama Thrift Store.

I found a complete almost-new still-in-the Commodore Plus/4 for $4! I snatched that up so fast my girlfriend thought I was having a breakdown. I get a LOT of robots from there, but not so much in the way of computers.


My local Goodwills haven't really had any computers in years, just lots of keyboards, monitors, and parallel-port scanners.

The Salvation Armies have been a little more profitable. I once found a TI-99/4A complete with it's original box, speech synthesizer, and cords. I plugged it into one of the TVs they had, but it was dead (the power light came on, but no picture).

They also had a Timex Sinclair. Barely more than a toy, that was. There was a Tandy 1000 as well. I don't remember the model (it was a while ago), but it had both 5.25" and 3.5" drives. It might have been an SL.

barythrin
March 3rd, 2009, 09:04 AM
That greed of separating items is certainly annoying and has hit our Goodwill's in town. You may find a system (although now adays it's extremely rare to find any vintage computers like they used to always have) but instead of bundling it together they'll have the power supply separate and for another price similar to the system.

(8 years ago) I remember wanting to get a video converter for my Apple IIc (to try and use a Mac monitor on it and for the IIgs). They had the converters for $5 but the IIc computers were also $5. One of them had a converter on it, so braindead decision but I put it on a nicer IIc and bought the computer and converter for $5 instead of getting gouged like they wanted.

EddieDX4
March 3rd, 2009, 09:36 AM
I used to work at one of their locations as the TV technician / small appliance repairman, and I know from experience that if something came in that was "too old" it headed for the trash. And God forbid someone try to rescue it from the dumpster. Their next stop, if they were caught, was jail.


Here in WA state, trash becomes public domain. If a store throws something out, it's fair game.

My mother-in-law works at Costco and she revealed to me the heart-breaking procedure they use when people return items. Regardless of whether the item is fine (buyer's remorse return), or even partially working, it does not get sent back to the manufacturers (reason Costco prices on most things are cheaper). They manually destroy the item and then spray paint lines/X's on them... THEN they throw them into these ginormous dumpsters and/or compactors they have in the back.

TV's (LCD's, Plasmas, rear-projections), for example, get a hammer through their screens. They usually spray paint the back.

They report these in as losses to the IRS and legally the items must be destroyed. The problem was that in the past they were simply throwing them away, but their own employees were picking them right out of the trash or tipping their buddies to know when to pick up big ticket items for resale. Now they make sure the items are worthless.

Mad-Mike
March 3rd, 2009, 12:30 PM
Have not been doing too much "preservation" as of late...just been goofing off with emulators to check out some alternative O/S's to my usual MS-DOS 6.22/WFWG 3.11 combo or plain DOS setup I usually use.

Some thoughts.....

The nicer the PC, the older it is, an IBM XT or Tandy 1000 will look brand new, a 286 might still have a Wordperfect guide on it or maybe a few light scratches, 386 and 486 hardware usually has one mismatching drive of some sort (usually a faster CD-ROM), and if it's a Pentium that's where the missing plastic, missing cards and slot covers, and nasty smears on the case begin. The exception is surplus industrial/corporate network equiptment that finds it's way there mysteriously. This also applies to software. A 20 year old copy of Ultima 5 will likely have everything plus the 20 year old backup diskettes in the box, but a 4 year old copy of Partition Magic will likely be a broken box with the CD in a Korn Jewel Case and a coffee stained manual inside with 4 pages missing.

Odd bits of hardware from industrial applications often mean awesome deals. I scored an 8 port KVM with the ability to be rack mounted and with it's own On-Screen Menu for $10, I looked it up on-line, it was $1000.00 new in box. Sometimes you can find a huge $500.00 network switch for a 10th the price (or even a 100th if the place is really daft).

EddieDX4
March 3rd, 2009, 12:36 PM
Have not been doing too much "preservation" as of late...just been goofing off with emulators to check out some alternative O/S's to my usual MS-DOS 6.22/WFWG 3.11 combo or plain DOS setup I usually use.

Some thoughts.....

The nicer the PC, the older it is, an IBM XT or Tandy 1000 will look brand new, a 286 might still have a Wordperfect guide on it or maybe a few light scratches, 386 and 486 hardware usually has one mismatching drive of some sort (usually a faster CD-ROM), and if it's a Pentium that's where the missing plastic, missing cards and slot covers, and nasty smears on the case begin. The exception is surplus industrial/corporate network equiptment that finds it's way there mysteriously. This also applies to software. A 20 year old copy of Ultima 5 will likely have everything plus the 20 year old backup diskettes in the box, but a 4 year old copy of Partition Magic will likely be a broken box with the CD in a Korn Jewel Case and a coffee stained manual inside with 4 pages missing.

Odd bits of hardware from industrial applications often mean awesome deals. I scored an 8 port KVM with the ability to be rack mounted and with it's own On-Screen Menu for $10, I looked it up on-line, it was $1000.00 new in box. Sometimes you can find a huge $500.00 network switch for a 10th the price (or even a 100th if the place is really daft).

A possible explanation to this "phenomenon" is that older machines were often owned by their original owners, who, back in the day when they were new, appreciated their cost/exclusivity.

Around the time that the first Pentiums began to roll into the market, Bill Gates' master plan of "a computer in every home" started to solidify. By then, computers became just another appliance in the household. Those machines, as they become obsolete, are treated the same way as that old fridge that sits in the garage until someone turns it into a kegerator, or that old dryer that gets used for BB target shooting next to that old rusty Camaro on blocks. :rolleyes:

Terry Yager
March 3rd, 2009, 05:50 PM
A possible explanation to this "phenomenon" is that older machines were often owned by their original owners, who, back in the day when they were new, appreciated their cost/exclusivity.

Around the time that the first Pentiums began to roll into the market, Bill Gates' master plan of "a computer in every home" started to solidify. By then, computers became just another appliance in the household. Those machines, as they become obsolete, are treated the same way as that old fridge that sits in the garage until someone turns it into a kegerator, or that old dryer that gets used for BB target shooting next to that old rusty Camaro on blocks. :rolleyes:

Of course, there's the cost factor too. When someone pays 5K for something, they're apt to take better care of it than the one they buy for 500.

--T

patscc
March 3rd, 2009, 05:56 PM
It might also be that as hardware has gotten cheaper, folks who don't know how to take care of anything to begin with are starting to buy stuff.
patscc

EddieDX4
March 3rd, 2009, 06:02 PM
Ah, screw it. I'm stopping at Goodwill tonight if it's still open by the time I drive by it.

I'm feeling lucky tonight...

And if not, then there's always my wife at home.

:rolleyes:

Kidding... :mrgreen:

Terry Yager
March 3rd, 2009, 06:42 PM
It might also be that as hardware has gotten cheaper, folks who don't know how to take care of anything to begin with are starting to buy stuff.
patscc

Hey, I resemble that...

--T