Getting Started: Now Where Did I Leave My Mind…?

You’ve done the research. You’ve crunched the numbers. You’ve gotten your heart wrapped up in how wonderful it’s going to be to have this little beige box sitting next to your ASIA poster by the desk you keep in the corner. You even went back to your parents’ house to track down the original boxed sets of your favorite games (Dark Castle and Prince of Persia, amirite?!). You even went as far as to dream up the impossible and concoct an explanation for your wife to make this sound more like a possible investment in your future than just a silly hobby to stave off your pending mid-life crisis. You got this. It’s time. You must start…SHOPPING!

vintage music antique radio

The world will continuously excel at one thing; You will never cease to find somebody happy to take your money in exchange for good feelings. Some of these people are very transparent about their work (hookers, late night infomercials, the “Dollar Menu”), and they make no overtures about being anything more than trading in your hard work for a few minutes of glorious comfort (“Set it and forget it!” I love you, Ron Popeil. I’ve never looked at a chicken the same way since I met you.). And then there are others. The people that insist you will receive peace and clarity on a level like no other once you hold the product they give you. The product is touted as the perfect catalyst between your efforts and a true sense of accomplishment. I’m speaking, of course, about people like the United States higher education system.

But you got this! Well, all except that part about, “Where do I even find one of these things?” First steps, first: Ask your friends and co-workers. Make it known that you are cartwheeling down this rabbit hole. Explain exactly what you want and why. There are more people like you than you realize. And those that don’t understand, may have a possible outlet for you. They may know that their aunt’s cousin’s best friend’s neighbor’s sandal may have exactly what you want in their basement or storage shed. Ask people straight up, “Hey do you have an old Macintosh, even if it’s a basket case, that just takes up space and needs to get out of your way?”

apps blur button close up

Chances are equally as good that you’re an introvert and the thought of initiating conversation for a personal pursuit is just not going to happen. That’s ok. Outside of ebay, which is great, there are plenty of forums with spaces for trading parts and equipment. I’ll make sure to leave a non-exhaustive list of links. There are also specialty shops with some incredible warehouses of items to support your new vice. Again, look to the links. I’ll work hard to keep that area up to date. Use them. They are a breath of fresh air from the constant price fluctuations of ebay and Craigslist sellers. Is there another way? Is it possible that there is a resource for purchasing vintage computers and components that will support your new hobby as well as the philanthropic goal of improving the planet and society?

While difficult to find in every metropolis, the e-waste recycling programs in your area may just have a retail outlet. There are some chains, there are some that are run by the municipality, and then there are some run by schools, their students, and a force of volunteers. These e-waste recycling programs are the best place to find more people like yourself as well as many folks that are happy to support your new interest without taking you for a ride. I can’t speak to many of these fine establishments, but if you find yourself in the San Diego area, I recommend you take a stop by the University of San Diego Electronics Recycling Center.



Located at 5330 Linda Vista Road, San Diego, CA 92110, you’ll find an amazing venture supported by the University of San Diego. Instrumental in plenty of research work at the dawn of personal computing, USD now offers an outlet for cleaning up the community of e-waste that has seen the end of its useful life, or electronics that are in need of new caretakers.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with a couple of the gentlemen in charge of the day-to-day operations of the store (stay tuned for the audio from that interview) and received some valuable insight on how it all works. What was more interesting is just what drew them into the field and how devoted they are to giving these machines another chance to entertain a new caretaker. There are many other institutions like this across the map, but what Arthur Atkinson and Matt Dahlman have done for the community is specifically impressive.

Arthur Atkinson

Dr. Atkinson takes a lot of pride in providing this service to the community as well as the Sustainability Department of the university. By socializing the ERC via Facebook, ebay, and through the students and volunteers that work in the building, the facility has been able to capture literally TONS of e-waste out of the typical waste streams. California, as many know, is a bit finicky about the disposal of CRTs, fluorescent bulbs, and the like. The ERC is an accessible location for consumers to bring these items that are not allowed to be placed in landfills. Have a surplus of hazardous e-waste materials? Call them to arrange a pick up.

Matt and Co

Behind the front counter, the soldering station, a spectacular beard, the site’s component recovery and sorting shop, and likely behind some choice vintage headphones with which he savors tunes in their original format is Matt Dahlman (pictured center right). Often seen running through the shop at top speed, Matt will be the operations dynamo who is ready to weigh in on any question you may have. The retro audio room is of particular pride to him and he can share the history of every single piece as well as how to best place speakers in your own home studio. Are you looking for the perfect Macintosh to start or even finish your collection? Matt has been known to take a name and number in order to call when the perfect item has hit the sales floor.

During the time when I was volunteering services, there was no shortage of activity or people looking to help. I saw volunteers fixing things according to their specialties. There were special education groups providing excellent motor skills and recognition field trips. Plenty of students wearing their blue shirts with beaming pride. And there were smiles everywhere, even when the San Diego sun put unnecessary stress on the building’s inadequate cooling system.


While there’s always estate sales, thrift shops, ebay, forum trading posts, Gumtree, Kijiji, and enough shady Craigslist posts to garner the interest Brenda Leigh Johnson, there are seldom enough caring people or responsible institutions like the USD ERC. Being able to enjoy the hunt for treasure is essential to a lasting relationship with this hobby. Finding people along the way to be mentors, proteges, and friends continues to be the most fulfilling aspect of playing with these machines and sharing stories from our rose tinted histories.

Have you been to the ERC? Is there a similar resale shop near you? With Radio Shack recently added to the “Now Defunct” list, where do you go to get your chats? Leave a comment below and share a story.

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