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The Net Takeaway: Where tech goes to die... heaven.

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Where tech goes to die... heaven. · 02/20/2008 11:27 PM, Tech Personal

I recently saw someone mention the Weird Stuff Warehouse in California. On first click (go ahead, try it), just looks like the usual tech parts store.

But then I saw some pics of the store itself... and it looks like it had some, well, unusual things. Not necessarily Weird (shrunken heads), but definitely not your usual store. (More pics below via the Flickr links if you can’t wait to see more.)

And I saw where it was: just down the street from Yahoo! in Sunnyvale. So, yesterday, I took a few minutes and drove over there.



My jaw dropped when I went in. Every piece of technology detritus, every type of tape cartridge to defunct networking dongle, its all there.

It’s in the Silly Valley, so it has very few personal computer stuff (no Atari or Commodore 64 stuff)... but it has floor to ceiling racks of telco switches, of serial cables, of various size floppy drives, of PC software from the 80s, Irix software from SGI, early Sun gear. Stacks of old lap-bricks, piles of typewriters and adding machines. Boxes of odd fasteners and screws, of PCI graphics cards, of modems and oscilliscopes, of hard drives of every size and interface. Lined up like squat skyscrapers were printers, from laser to dot martrix, along with ribbons and cartridges and toner from every era, right by the fax machines, and endcapped by the microfiche machine.

Signs were all markers and tape, “as is” and “$1 ea.”. A test bench was set up with some power sockets and some basic tools to test your discovery.

I found myself laughing over and over again as I walked between the shelves. It was like Costco or Sam’s Club… but full of all those pieces of tech you see in the IT closet at a company which has been around a while, or in the box you find by the dumpster when an old office building is being torn down. Sure, some of that laughter was the “Who the hell is going to buy this piece of junk?”... but a lot of it was just sheer delight at the scale and scope of this collection, all for sale, all reflecting the various waves of technology which, over the last 30 years, have swept the Silicon Valley and the world.




I have to admit, I know a lot of old gear… and I was stumped by some of what I saw.



But lots of people knew exactly what they wanted. They were carrying out old cables, old fasteners, SCSI connectors, old serial cards, a broken LCD screen. People were buying small screws and old network gear. One guy was looking at the old software for an old version of PC DOS.

Look, this wasn’t some boutique with fancy watches or Vertu phones, nor was it the wonderland of new gear which makes up Fry’s Electronics. And you had to be pretty nerdy to enjoy this place, full of dusty old computer gear. And yes, it all looked forlorn and abandoned: none of this gear was going to be seen as “antique” or collectible (though some of the SGI and Sun gear was much cooler than I expected)




But think of the first time you played wiffle ball, or the first time you went to a candy store. Hearing those sounds, smelling those smells, seeing logos and symbols from a bygone age reflecting the memes of the time, they all evoke that feeling of when these things were new to you… the joy of discovery, of that first time. Like Proust’s madeleine, the sights of this old gear reminded me of when I first started to play with this stuff, when I first grabbed time on the school’s minicomputer or when I first hung out at the local “business technology” store (ComputerLand) by riding my bike.

So, if you love old tech and are in the SF or Silicon Valley area, highly recommended. Check out the photos linked below, and feel free to let me know in the comments if there are other places like this around the US.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/weirdstuffwarehouse/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/bre/sets/72157594365833912/

(All pictures from Flickr are owned by their authors, used without permission. I hope they don’t get mad.)

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