Computer Scrapyards (was: PAM computer, Convergent?)

From: William Donzelli <>
Date: Mon Jul 14 21:33:52 1997

> Meanwhile, SPARCs were flying off of a truck in the background.

Yes, the government sold off many SPARCstation 370s and 470s a while back.

> Admittedly, most of the equipment at these places seemed to be standard
> PC-clone junk, but there have got to be some real gems out there, given
> the quantity of equipment that these places "process".

I wish I could have saved a Univac tape drive just a bit back. Stuff made
by Univac is very rare, in that the company had what is known as a
"scortched earth" policy - grind up all of the old machines, so there is
no used market.

I have seen many gems from DEC, mostly mid-1970s PDP-11s and early VAXen.
I have yet to see any 12, 18, or 36 bit stuff from them, however. The old
IBMs never show up - most coming out now are 3081 and 3090 machines
(there is hope, as I heard a 360 was decommisioned in 1995!). I have also
seen early SGI equipment, but not much early Sun (I do not know why).

Never give up on junkyards. I have pulled some absolutely wild things out
of some of them - things I never thought I would ever see, let alone

Junkyards, unfortunately, are not the places to find classic micros.

> So, what experiences have others had with computer scrapyards? How
> willing are the operators to let collectors in to look around?

Generally, not very. Most do not want to be hassled - some (including
ones I deal with) are on an invitation only basis (sorry guys, I tried).

> How much
> over "scrap" prices do you usually have to pay

Depends on the owner. For ancient radio/radar equipment, I go to a place
in Pennsylvania. The owner and I get along, so much of it goes for
exactly what he can get for it - generally $0.25 per pound, if there is
little steel in it.

Most other places, on the pther hand, will gouge - expect up to a dollar a
pound, even if there is much steel (the markup is incredible - most junkyards
pay 1 to 5 cents per pound).

Prices I have paid:

SPARCstation 470 power supply - $25
Extended VAXstation 2000 with disk - $20
RD54s in expansion bricks - $20/each
Apollo 10000 (loaded, no drives) - $100
Sun 3,4/280 (loaded, 32 megs, no drives) - $75
PDP-11/23 (new) - $25
Various cards - $2 - $5
Cool IBM air cooled TCM from a mainframe (~900 pins!) - $2
And more...
Keep in mind to look for disk drives when shopping in the scrap yards.
Most government systems are missing all sorts of data storage devices.
Also, look for any required keys (RS/6000s have UNIQUE keys, some Suns as
well, unlike the ubiquitous DEC key).

Also, always look for moisture! Water inside a transformer can ruin a
fine machine.

> And, most of all, should
> someone who can't even throw away an empty Apple II hulk dare to set foot
> inside one of these places?

If you are not into minis and workstations, do not bother going. You will
not find Commodores, Ataris, old Apples, etc.

William Donzelli
Received on Mon Jul 14 1997 - 21:33:52 BST

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