Austin, Texas Computerworks Goodwill

Keys jrkeys at
Thu Mar 15 19:11:08 CDT 2007

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim Battle" <frustum at>
To: <cctalk at>
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2007 1:57 PM
Subject: Austin, Texas Computerworks Goodwill

> 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, 
> 70's micros.
> 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 day. 
> Bastards.
> 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.
It's almost the same here in Houston now, they stopped selling computers in 
the store because of a law suite. Someone won a case in court because the 
goodwill sold their computer with their personal data on it. You can find 
monitors, keyboards, some other junk for sale but that's it. They have a 
"guy" that parks a empty trailer out back of the main door and ALL computers 
and electronic stuff are tossed into it for him to haul off. Really sucks as 
they get a large amount of goodies here. They no longer keep the good 
manuals or books either.


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