PAM computer, Convergent?

From: Frank McConnell <>
Date: Mon Jul 14 15:33:40 1997

"Jeff Kaneko" <> wrote:
> > Halted in Santa Clara

> Funny you should mention these guys. I don't uderstand how they've
> managed to stay in business! I *really* needed a couple of 8" floppy
> drives a couple of years ago when I lived in San Jose. They had a
> pile of them -- for $75.00 a whack! I didn't bite.

I think Weird Stuff pulled something like this around December 1995,
not too long before they vacated their Kern Avenue storefront. Yeah,
right, like I am going to pay $75 for used-and-abused 8" drives when
the dealer hasn't even taken the time to sort out single/double sided
let alone single/double density.

Halted has a decent store of small parts. They are good for that, if
like me you are not real good at organization and planning your
component needs with enough lead time to deal with mail-order. And
they keep their selection of connectors better organized than some
other nearby outfits (Haltek in Mountain View just has no concept of
how to do this -- well, actually I haven't been there in a while, and
have been avoiding the connector aisles there for quite a while

Sometimes they have hard-to-find small parts. E.g. three or four
years ago they had sourced some of those funky SCSI connectors like
Sun used to use: the female D connectors with 50 pins arranged as
three rows. Specifically these were the IDC flavor designed to crimp
onto flat cable -- just the ticket if you were setting up a disk box
for a Sun! Pricey at $11, but the thought of the amount of time I
would spend soldering 50 little wires from a flat cable into 50 little
cups was a good motivating factor. So I bought a few, and I gather
other folks did too because one time I found myself waiting for them
to get new stock in.

> They were gone a couple of weeks later, I asked what became of them,
> and they said that nobody wanted them, so they were scrapped!
> Have you ever seen a grown man cry?

Yeah, I have seen them perpetrate other crocks, like the HP 2100 mini
that they were selling for $100? $200? I can't remember. What I do
remember is that someone had thoughtfully removed all the cards from
the CPU, and with my naturally cynical outlook I expect that means
they were easy pickings for gold recovery. To be fair there were some
other peripherals there, but the hassle involved in moving the lot
(all set in a 19" rack) and finding some place to put it was
additional discouragement -- besides which I did not have as much
experience with the other bits and so was not able to determine on the
spot whether they had already been gutted (though it looked like some
cabling had been removed as well).

It's not entirely clear to me how the surplus-electronics business
works here in Sillycon Valley, but one thing is obvious: the primary
moneymaker is in the movement of large lots, probably from auctions
and companies seeking to be rid of obsolete hardware, through the
surplus business and I am guessing on the way to precious-metals
recovery operations. If the surplus businesses see little bits that
they think will work better being sold as onesies-and-twosies to
people looking for upgrades/spares for their trailing-edge PCs (or to
people looking for deals on test equipment), then those will come out
to the showroom floor. And that can be a profitable niche too, so
they try to price accordingly (i.e. cheap enough to make it look like
a better deal than upgrading, but not so cheap as to lose much of the
profit they could make -- gotta pay for that showroom floor somehow).

This has a side effect, too: some of the surplus dealers have a bad
attitude toward walk-ins. They know you're not likely a moneymaker,
so they are apt to blow off simple questions like "got any more of
these?" I got this from the guys at Sharon Industries in San Jose one
day a few months ago -- I had wandered in to pick up one or two dinky
Unisys PCs that I had seen there and thought would make nice little
routers if configured with a small hard disk. The place was messier
than usual -- maybe they were reorganizing or maybe they were trying
to look like Mike Quinn's, I dunno; they certainly hadn't bothered to
close the door or hang a sign up ("closed for remodeling"?). The
display was still out, though, so I inquired. First he was asking me
if I wanted them today, and when I said "yeah, I could take one or two
today" (thinking I should leave the door open for him to say "I can't
get to them right now, how about tomorrow?") he changed his tune to
"oh, I sold 'em all to Halted." The thought that crossed my mind was:
except the one you keep on the shelf for people to look at, right? I
haven't been back -- maybe I am a pain in the hindquarters but I
really prefer dealing with folks I think are capable of being honest.

Speaking of pains in the hindquarters, there is another surplus dealer
(RA Electronics) who just plain got out of the computer business, and
the rumor is that this is because they got fed up with people coming
back asking for support for whatever PC junk they had purchased there.
So I'm sure that there are some pains worse than I out there -- I at
least am working from the assumption that I am buying someone else's
junk as-is.

-Frank McConnell
Received on Mon Jul 14 1997 - 15:33:40 BST

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