Austin, Texas Computerworks Goodwill
frustum at pacbell.net
Thu Mar 15 13:57:40 CDT 2007
I've had it with the Computerworks in Austin. Please let me rant;
nobody else will appreciate it.
When I moved to Austin a couple years ago, I had high hopes. In the San
Francisco Bay area, you could spend a saturday hitting half a dozen
Goodwill's, looking for gems. Sometimes they appeared, often not. In
Austin (and San Antonio, and probably some other cities) Goodwill sends
all of their computer donations to a specialized goodwill, marketed as
"ComputerWorks"; the theory is that most goodwill's don't have skilled
employees to know what is interesting or not and how to price it; I
agree that is the case.
The Austin Computerworks even has a vintage computer museum, so that led
me to believe the appreciated vintage computers.
Bzzt. Not so.
Clue #1: the "museum" hasn't been open in the eight or so times I've
stopped by. Their hours are sunday 1-5, monday 9-11, wed 1-3. 8 hours
a week. One time I snuck in when the door was open and had a look -- it
is a hands-off museum. Each of the 20 or so machines has a 5x7 card
fully explaining what is interesting about the machine and how it fits
in to the tapestry of computing ... not. Name, date, and manufacturer
is about all.
Clue #2: they got rid of 80% of their books, leaving only "popular" titles.
Clue #3: they never have any vintage computers for sale when I'm there.
A year ago I had dropped off an HP 85, an HP86, and 30 lbs of software
and manuals, even replacement paper for the 85's printer. I was nervous
when they told me to go around to the side to drop it off at the general
donation dock, but I did it.
Today before donating, I asked a few questions.
Me: I have an apple II+, and apple IIe, and a kaypro 10 to donate. Are
you interested in them?
Clerk: Yes, sir, we are! Drive around the side to the loading dock and
drop them off there.
Me: I've been here a dozen times (I'm stretching the truth with him to
make a point) and I've never seen any old computers for sale -- I mean,
Him: Oh, we get them, but most people aren't interested.
Me: So what do you do when you get them?
Him: We send them to a room where were separate out the metal from the
plastic and ...
Me: (interrupting) Wait a second... you mean you don't even try to sell
them to that segment of the market that is interested in them, for
nostalgia's sake or whatever? You just trash them?
Him: No sir, as I just explained, we don't throw them away. We separate
out the metal from the plastic ... (I didn't hear the rest as I walked away)
So the nice hp 85 and 86 that I donated last year with docs and apps,
memory expansion carts, serial interface carts, and which was in much
better condition than the one in their museum, never saw the light of
What makes this even more insidious is that when I go to the local run
of the mill goodwills and inquire about what they do with old computer
donations, they say they ship them to computer works to deal with them.
So essentially it is a vintage computer magnet attached to a wood chipper.
I understand that goodwill gets far more stuff than can ever sell, but
to not even try is sickening. There was no hint of regret about it from
the clerk -- in fact, he was rather proud that they were recycling bits
of them vs tossing them whole.
After leaving the computerworks, I drove a mile or two up the road the
to recently mentioned MC Howard electronics. They have room for lots of
funky stuff, and they were happy to accept them.
Phew, I feel better. Now I need to write a rant to the goodwill
organization to enlighten them on the subject.
PS: Doc Shipley, don't bother driving to MC Howard to get the kaypro 10,
if you were. I have a nicer one that I'm still sitting on for you to
collect some day.
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