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Hardware Science

Scrounging for Fun and Profit 145

Guinnessy writes: "According to Toni Feder on Physics Today, scrounging used equipment is worthwhile if you can avoid the pitfalls of wasting time and compromising scientific goals. Feder interviews experimenters who have dug up everything from dewars to nuclear reactors."
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Scrounging for Fun and Profit

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  • Is it considered scrounging when you pick up the several hundred thousand dollar diode laser you just dropped on the ground in the rain? Just wondering cause a strikingly similar situation occurred recently.
  • by Moonshadow ( 84117 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @02:24PM (#2159068)
    When Bruno Bauer inherited Zebra, a retired 2-trillion-watt pulsed-power machine...

    Man, I wish my rich uncle would die and leave me a 2-trillion-watt pulsed-power machine!
    • Re:Inheritance... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ch-chuck ( 9622 )
      Those power figures can be misleading, depending on the pulse duration, power being energy/second. I've plans for a 100,000 Watt Laser that runs off of a 6v lantern battery. Sure, it actually is 100,000 watts, but the pulse duration is only 10 nanoseconds, and the light pulse that comes out is only about 6 feet long, so the amount of energy is, well, what can be supplied by a 6v lantern battery, nothing earth shattering there.

    • Speaking of neat junk I've scrounged, anyone want three Eimac 450TH transmitting tubes? 450 watts RMS in class A mode (lots more in class C), thoriated filament directly heated. Filaments are good, no shorts with an ohmmeter, were replaced from a big Toronto radio station as part of a normal maintenance cycle.

      Want 'em? Visit my site! [glowingplate.com]

  • Whoohoo! Count me in!

    Although...you suppose they didn't mean Scotch?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    well, like the guy in the article, i wouldn't mind picking up a petawatt laser myself... unfortunately, i doubt my mom would let me keep it in the basement.

    (some people just don't appreciate legitimate scientific inquiry!)
  • Cyclotron (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @02:26PM (#2159079) Homepage
    A friend of mine once came into the possession of an ancient and discarded cyclotron. This was a particle accelerator of the old variety, unreliable and weak by todays standards, but relatively inexpensive. It was a hunk of odd parts about two feet in diameter, and would have looked like a Doctor Who prop to anyone who didn't know better.

    He purchased it for just a few hundred dollars from the lab which had been clearing out their parts warehouse. It took him a few months to get it working again, but a few weeks ago I was present when he performed his first successful "atom smashing" in his upstate New York backyard.

    A glorious experience, to say the least.

    • Re:Cyclotron (Score:5, Interesting)

      by glitch! ( 57276 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @03:02PM (#2159333)
      If Microsoft or the entertainment industry were making laws, reusing old equipment would be illegal...

      After all, this scavenging activity causes lost sales for new equipment and supplies. By their reasoning, recycling old gear is the same thing as theft. Of course, if they stated it that way, everyone would just laugh, so maybe they would try to couch it in terms of public safety or "the children".

      Is this farfetched? Well, yes. But keep an eye on companies that want to lease you a product (from cars to computers) or license it (software, music, movies). The next step is month-to-month rental, with extra points if you become dependent on their service for your livelihood or well-being.

      And it must really be cool to have a home cyclotron :-)

    • I'm assuming that a cyclotron is a particle accelerator?
    • Atom smashing, bah, why back in the day we smashed atoms the old fashioned way, by hand! Or should I say, the gave us big hammers and a block of uranium and we had at it, and we liked it!
    • This was a particle accelerator of the old variety, unreliable and weak by todays standards, but relatively inexpensive.

      I'm willing to bet that it can be made far more reliable than the big accelerators of today: it has many fewer parts, and they are all much more accessible. You're also not subject to overbearing safety rules that make everything take much longer than it really needs to (without providing much improvement in safety). For reference, during operating periods, the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron at Brookhaven National Laboratory [bnl.gov] tries to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On average, beam is delivered successfully for about 100 out of those 168 hours.

      If your friend is going to run this cyclotron, I recommend that he learn about radiation safety and put together a radiation monitoring system.

  • http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN%3D155950088 3/stephensdumpsterA/104-0517296-7823930
  • University dumpsters (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    At my university, UConn, the dumpsters outside the engineering and physics buildings are always full of interesting stuff. old networking equipment, lasers, computers, magnets, peices of metal. lots of goodies..
  • My friend thought he'd hit the jackpot when he lifted a laser from an old cat-scan machine from a hospital and made a crude rave device...this article is talking about making *anti-matter* with a laser that the governemnt wasn't interested in anymore. And I only end up being offered used 486's!
  • Heh.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by EFGearman ( 245715 ) <EFGearman AT sc DOT rr DOT com> on Friday August 03, 2001 @02:29PM (#2159113)
    Think about it for a second. A whole new season of junkyard wars... With nukes...

    Eric Gearman
    • Re:Heh.... (Score:3, Funny)

      by tuffy ( 10202 )
      "On this week's challenge, you'll have just ten hours to build a working fission reactor. Then, tomorrow morning, whoever can generate the most watts of electricity in one hour will move on to the semifinals."

      (Anyone else excited about the new season airing in the US on September 12?)

      • Of course to get into the true JW spirit they should use the energy to grind coffee, or harvest a field of wheat.
      • Any word one whether George Grey will be the host again or will we finally be getting robert Llewellyn back? I enjoyed him as the host a lot and missed him when he was replaced here.

        Also, do you know if Cathy will be with us again next season?
  • Honestly, I don't think that it is a good idea to remove the dewars.... remember the last time? AKIIIIIIRAAAAAA!!!! TETSUUUOOOOOO!!!! (NEO TOKYO EXPLODES) Sorry, I had to do it. Its kinda a /. law.
  • by Dambiel ( 115695 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @02:31PM (#2159128) Homepage

    research scientists scrounge around for stuff?

    It makes perfect sense, i know a few researchers who go out every weekend to scrounge for some Dewars [dewars.com].

  • by Prof_Dagoski ( 142697 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @02:31PM (#2159129) Homepage

    Little tip to junk lovers everywhere: Every physics department has a room or two that they don't use for anything. What happens is that equipment that no one needs gets stashed there and forgotten. I've dug up everything from high precision mirrors to fiber optic by the yard, and bits of machined metal I couldn't identify but thought looked cool. It helps if your department hasn't redecorated and refurbished its digs in a long, long time.

    • What happens is that equipment that no one needs gets stashed there and forgotten. I've dug up everything from high precision mirrors to fiber optic by the yard, and bits of machined metal I couldn't identify but thought looked cool. It helps if your department hasn't redecorated and refurbished its digs in a long, long time.

      I use to work in the physics dept at my school (JHU). The phyiscs department building is brand new (it's this crazy fortess), but nonetheless I get the feeling there are tens of thousands of strange artifacts waiting to be discovered in the rooms in the basement. This is probably influenced by going into the room with the VBNS routers, and finding hundreds of ... old rotary phones. Just sitting there in a huge pile. If they've got that there, who knows what else they've got...

      Actually when the local ACM chapter changed rooms, we inherited maybe 100+ feet of fiber. Didn't have any use for it, but it was kind of odd...
      • The phyiscs department building is brand new (it's this crazy fortess), but nonetheless I get the feeling there are tens of thousands of strange artifacts waiting to be discovered in the rooms in the basement.

        Yeah, that's pretty much true here in Bloomberg. one of the Condensed-Matter physicists retired recently, and a bunch of his stuff is still lying around. We're (C.L.Chien's group) contemplating assimilating his old MBE for our group, but there's alot of other unused stuff. Actually, one guy from our group is salvaging a good LHe dewar from an old Mossbauer Spectroscopy setup, which should save us some cash.

        There's also some crazy old electronics around the building. In the undergrad lounge/lab, there's one of the oldest oscilloscopes I've ever seen (and I've seen my share of REALLY old scopes). It's the size of a large desk, takes banana-plug-like inputs (not coax). I don't even think it could generate the horizontal sawtooth waveform, and that you had to do that externally. This thing was definitely ANCIENT, maybe one of the first commercially-produced CRT screens.

        My old school (U.Penn) had alot of old/random devices around, especially in some obscure storage closets that appeared like they hadn't been disturbed in decades. Although it gets kind of scary when you're exploring a closet and you see barrels filled with random chemicals you've never heard of.

    • Back when I was in college I helped the physics dept. clean out their junk room. In exchange, they let me keep whatever I wanted out of the unneeded equipment. I got some really big lenses, some nice frount surface mirrors, and a tube powered oscilloscope that was originally purchased for NASA's Gemini program (and still had the appropriate labels on it). I had trouble explaining to the campus police why I was pushing a "late model oscilloscope" back to my dorm at 3am, but when they found out I was an mech. engineering major they smiled knowingly and left me alone. Among the uses I put it to was helping keep my underheated dorm room warm in the winter.
      • some nice frount surface mirror

        I have a heavy glass front surface mirror, a couple of cm thick and cut on a slant so that its face is elliptical in shape, on a little stand on the desk of my cube at work. It looks ornamental, but it serves the vital function of letting me see who's lurking at my threshold also.

    • Its true, I work at a campus lab, and we have a room called the "craporium" everything that we want to get rid of but cant throw away goes there. I once found a declassified report from 1963 on the effects of all out Nuclear war with the russians (1000 megaton bombload) The report estimated that 180 days after war was beginning the US power supply would be back to 75% of prewar levels. The big assumetion the report makes is that power plants themselves would not be targeted, that only city centers and military bases would be targets. oops.
    • "Unused rooms"? Here at TRIUMF [triumf.ca] we're surrounded by ancient junk. Some of it isn't identifiable. Some of it's still functional, but often the only way to find out is to turn it on. Some of it was built for some one-shot experiment. It's not uncommon to go scrounging around the place looking for something vaguely resembling the part you need, then attaching it to your apparatus with cable ties or duct tape. (And I can honestly say parts of my MSc experiment were held together with duct tape. Other parts with electrical tape -- and I don't mean wires.) Hey, it's typically a whole lot faster and cheaper than waiting for the overworked machine shop to build you something.

      Of course, the really scary thing is the amount of ancient artifacts still in *use*... the control computers for the cyclotron itself apparently just got upgraded to VMS about four years ago...

  • Geeks can build some cool stuff with scavanged parts, like a nuclear reactor [slashdot.org].
  • God Yes! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <glandauer@charter.net> on Friday August 03, 2001 @02:33PM (#2159155) Homepage

    Scrounging and scavenging equipment is a vital skill for all experimental scientists. It's usually more along the lines of finding the unused goodies that somebody has stashed in the back of their lab than finding the expensive stuff described in the article, but everyone without military-class bugets learns to do it. (Actually, I'll bet that even the best funded darlings do a lot of scrounging, too) Figuring out how to use the components is sometimes a bit of a trick, but there are few things as fun as finding a pile of junk and figuring out how how those components are going to help your next project.

    • Scrounging is a time honored tradition in the DOD. I was a submariner, and our motto was "If it fits down the hatch, it's ours. If we can't use it, we might be able to trade it for something we need." We had stuff stored away in every nook and cranny, and you never knew when something would come in handy.

      You should have seen our nuclear grade stainless steel joystick attached to an Apple II.

      ObProliferation - we had to inventory our reactor core once a quarter, and our commanding officer had to sign the ineventory to verify it was still in our possesion.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Found on Yahoo! under "Recreation->Hobbies" Dumpster Diving [yahoo.com]
    guarenteed goatse free : http://dir.yahoo.com/Recreation/Hobbies/Dumpster_D iving/

  • From the article: "Computers are the most useless--they are right up there with disposable diapers in landfill."

    This is so true. Although people tend to get nostalgic about computers, especially in the Linux crowd - let's face it - a computer older than 4 years is certainly useless, drains electricity for no aparent reason; at nowadays prices you can cheaply replace it with something many times more powerful.... Just reminded me of a thing I saw on TV - some sort of university in the US was giving old, used computers to schools in Africa, so kids there are not so distanced from the Internet age. The old crap they showed was competely useless junk. When I imagined the shipping cost they paid for these things.....
    • I cannot agree entirely with this statement. I would say that, more accurately, it depends heavily on the TYPE of computer in question.

      Example: The early-90's vintage Sun "Lunchboxes" (the SPARC IPC, IPX, Classic, and LX) make wonderful small web or mail servers. I should know; My 'net presence depends on them. Electrical-wise, you can easily run a pair of them on what a single PC pulls. Reliability-wise, they're light-years ahead of most PCs outside the big server-class systems.

      Processing power? Heck, does it really matter? They get the job done, and they get it done pretty darn quick. Remember that SPARC architecture is radically different from any PC, and NetBSD runs pretty darned efficient no matter what platform it's on.

      Best of all, I acquired a whole stack of them for less than $100.00. Beat THAT with a stick!

      The same holds true of some of the later MicroVAX systems. Right now, I'm working on cleaning up a VAX 4000/200 minitower, getting it ready for NetBSD, and to be an NIS master and boot server for my domain. Its power drain at full load (which I won't ever reach) is about the same as a mid-sized PC.

      In short: Yes, the vast majority of retired PCs are not very versatile. Then again, IBM never designed the PC to be a long-lifer. The success of the entire PC line surprised the crap out of IBM as much as it did many in the industry.

      HOWEVER -- Don't expect minicomputers, workstations, or other such equipment, ESPECIALLY in the non-PC realm, to follow the same pattern.

    • I'm using older computers for routers and Web servers, plus they are very useful for my relatives. I have a 486 set up just for word processing for my uncle, and my mother is getting along find with a P133. My Web server / file server / e-mail server is running on a 486 - 66 MHz and works just fine. I'd recomend that you give away your older computers to someone who would like to have them, rather than throwing them away. They run UNIX style systems great if you are in text mode. Windows 95 works fine with 8 MB of RAM.
    • That is such an arrogant position to take! What may seem cheap to you may not seem cheap to someone else.
      It annoys me when people go and spend a fortune on upgrading a computer to the latest spec, then simply use it to play Solitaire and check email. Why do you need a 1GHz Athlon to play cards?
  • at the University of Maine at Portland, my favorite physics professor (and scrounging mentor), Charles Armentrout, equipped most of the physics labs from scrounge when UMP's new science building went way over-budget on a big concrete estimating error. They were able to finish it (less 2 floors that were dropped from the design), but couldn't furnish it much. Charlie's scrounging skills meant the Physics labs were fully equipped, while the chemistry labs were just so much empty space. Scrounging just plain rules.
  • Television (Score:3, Funny)

    by cnkeller ( 181482 ) <cnkeller@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Friday August 03, 2001 @02:43PM (#2159234) Homepage
    Anyone else see potential for Laboratory Wars?
  • I've gotten some great stuff second hand.
    Most of my computer stuff:
    A dual proc PIII 650 soon to be upgraded with 60
    GB of hardware raid.
    2 sparc20s
    My friend has gotten some even cooler stuff.
    He has an old centrifuge (which he hasn't found a use for yet.
    He also got a still which had previously only been used for distilling distilled water (they needed really pure water for this experiment). Now he uses it to make moonshine ;)
  • right here [levylatham.com]. Enjoy.
    • Interesting site. A lot of the stuff looked pretty good until I read the Condition Codes. A lot of things have classifications like this:

      F7 & F
      Economically reparable material which requires repair, overhaul, or reconditioning. Includes reparable items which are radioactivity contaminated.

      I don't think I want to roll those dice.
  • look smart (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xeno ( 2667 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @02:53PM (#2159288)

    "If you get a 100-kV power supply built in 1950, chances are you'll be happy. There is continual improvement, but no quantum leaps. Computers are the most useless--they are right up there with disposable diapers in landfill."

    Oh, how true that is. And it applies on a personal level. I have a basement full of computer crap to prove it. I thought "Oh, I'll put them together and make some usable systems for a local charity." BZZZTT! The local charities won't even take anything less than a P5 or pm601 system. They say 486's and 040's cost more to test than they can sell them for. Frankly, it's hard to find a place to dispose of them.

    But peripherals, cable and infrastructure stuff? That's a different matter. I picked up three fiber transceivers from Value Village a month ago for $5ea. Ditto ($7) for a HP Deskjet 1600 (the big 9ppm postcript color inkjet w/jetdirect). IMHO, local thrift stores are great for this sort of stuff IF you don't get sucked into buying more stuff to fix the great deal you got.

    Looking for little stuff like power adapters, modems, printers, etc? Head for the local thrift store. Looking for wiring or shielding? Check out industrial supply places (like Pacific Iron & Metal [recycle.net] in Seattle, where you can get castoff spools from the local telcos). Looking for bigger infrastructure bits? You can get rackmount cases, cable, sensors, and all manner of interesting bits directly from telco salvage units, places like re-pc [repc.com], or if you're nearby, places like Boeing Surplus [boeing.com]

    A little time spent doing some smart looking can save a lot of cash. Otoh, A lot of time looking can be a huge waste. You just gotta know when to stop and pay retail.

    • Re:look smart (Score:2, Informative)

      by nmos ( 25822 )
      A few other places worth looking:

      Local universities. Ours sells everything from office furnature to autoclaves(sp) and there's plenty of power cubes and misc cables for free or cheap.

      Self storage companies: Many of the local ones have auctions on a regular basis to sell off the stuff from the storage lockers that wern't paid up. With both a jail and University near by there's lots of interesting unclaimed stuff:)

      The local thrift store is pretty worthless though since wife of another local geek works there and grabs all the good stuff right away.

    • Pfft! I would love to have a few old 486s around my place. I've still got some old software around here that doesn't like to run on some of my newer equipment.
  • An important thing about scrounge is that it can push someone off into a direction they might not otherwise have taken, or even considered.

    How often has a chance encounter or off-topic exploration resulted in a true find. That dohickey may lead you to something great.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Those folks scrounge everything. I used to work there, and there are whole floors of scrounged equipment. I remember building a power supply in an old cabinet for some visiting resaerchers. Took a week of labor and a few thousand in parts. Without leftover parts and the cabinet, it would have taken a month or two to order a switching supply for $50K.
    Dale is the king of surplus equipment. Glad to see he's still there.
  • GREAT! Now i can strip the metal off that old russian missle burried in my back yard and use it as a make-shift trash can lid to fly down a snowy hillside. Ah.. what would we do without science?
    • Rather use a slab of titanium off a retired nuclear sub, wouldn't you? Titanium is light, strong and has a +5 coolness factor (For reference: Boron carbide has a +7 coolness factor and Depleted Uranium is +10)
  • So that's what Banjo [slashdot.org] is running on!
  • As part of the NTF, the Petawatt will be open to the wider user community. Bauer and his colleagues plan to use it for fusion energy, plasma, atomic physics, environmental, and materials science studies, as well as in research for stockpile stewardship--DOE's experimental and computational program for safeguarding US nuclear capability.

    Just once, I'd like for someone to have a sense of humor and say, "our plan is use this L-A-S-E-R to destroy cities unless you pay us one hundred billion dollars..."

  • A bigger hammer, even if it's used, is still a bigger hammer and OK.

    While I was a hobbyist, many moons ago, I used a lot of scrounged eq (some of it looked a heck of a lot better than they stuff they had in the college physics labs, to boot!) and did pretty well. As a result, however, I have a tendency to scrounge before I'll actually fork over the really big zorkmids for new stuff. (Hmm, could that be a problem?)

    Revealed: Jar Jar after having his ears bobbed! [yahoo.com]

  • There's a store based off this, it's called AXMAN SURPLUS.

    Need a bunch of Teddy Ruxpin heads?(just the guts) Go to Axman.
  • From the article...

    "Bauer landed both Zebra and the Petawatt laser through personal contacts"

    DAMN I know the wrong kind of people...

  • Sometimes I think... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @03:31PM (#2159494) Homepage
    That if you don't scrounge, then, well... you are just a wannabe geek.

    Here in Phoenix, AZ - I scrounge on everything (hell, just yesterday I managed to obtain a couple of old PCs from my work - nothing of great interest in them, but the cases are nice - they were headed for the trash, from what I understand). I have several sources - both in the "pay-as-little-as-you-can" to "free-for-the-taking":

    1. My work (free old junk)
    2. Apache Reclamation and Electronics (cheap small and LARGE junk)
    3. Electronic Materials and Computers (E^3) also known as Elitech (sometimes get ripped off here)
    4. Dave's Computers (still checking this place out - owned by a guy who got shafted at E^3)
    5. Some place on 9th Ave and Madison (Westech or something - want to check this place out soon)
    6. Global Recycling (still need to check this place out - they are only B2B, so need EIN or something)
    7. Equipment Exchange (behind BOB on Grant or Lincoln - great place for strange and big manufacturing stuff)
    8. There is also a metals company off of (Washington?) across from Greyhound Park that is cool

    For everything else - late night Friday/Saturday runs through dumpsters! Behind Nortel, Honeywell, many business/industrial office parks - great fun. Just bring a flashlight, some gloves, and throw a few boxes in the truck (to tell security guards you are moving and looking for boxes - most of the time they will leave you alone, or at worst, ask you politely to leave - don't hassle 'em, don't stick around - just apologize, thank them, and LEAVE).

    I remember one time near Metro Center finding a stash of old computer equipment, another time behind a Honeywell finding some old minicomputers and terminals, and a big winchester drive (all the stuff was too big to even THINK about lifting). One time over at a Nortel my friends and I found some kind of telephone equipment rack - we grabbed that real quick. Another time we found a bunch of Narcotics Monthly magazines (funny thing, this was in a business park - not sure WHY these were there, unless some PI had an office there).

    For the rest, there is always online retailers of used/surplus junk (I have a ton of links, too many to list here). Of course, the final place to check is Ebay.

    Great fun buying and finding used stuff...
    • Oooh
      thanks for the places to check out in phx

      • No prob.

        I definitely recommend going to ARE - just wear old clothes (and depending on what you are doing and when, heavy boots, jeans and gloves). Be prepared for a VERY dirty place (as in, you go in, and the dirt gravitates toward you - I mean your hands get dirty just by being there) - but it is worth it to find the funkier stuff (I recently found this small LCD panel and control buttons - didn't know if it was dot-matrix addressable, etc - started looking into the chip, a bit of documentation from a dude in Germany (no kidding!), and had it all traced out - turned out to be a multi segment display for a piece of med equipment - a little cleaning, maybe it will be useful). Sometimes they get REALLY cool stuff in (one time, an industrial robot arm, in crate, no controller - for $200.00 - you just had to figure out how to haul it away!). Also, be careful as you look - I have seen chemicals and biostuff (well, it was marked biohazard, and it had little vials of liquid in a small case - scary) laying out/around - but sometimes you can get good deals on the stuff (currently they are selling big tubes of heat sink grease for a buck or two, and they used to have a good stash of, get this, acetone markers - yeah, that's right - magic markers filled, not with ink, but with acetone! Great for removing inks - like on address labels - paint, or cleaning small areas on a circuit board. I am sure you could use them for other nefarious things, but you would have to be more of a psycho than a geek to go that far with em).

        Equipment Exchange is cool just to browse around - they sell to the public, but most of the stuff they have is either too large to haul off (like conveyor baking ovens for wafer manufacturing), or most people wouldn't have a real use for it (they had an old Unimate industrial robot there last time I visited - big as a car). But it is fun to explore. It is situated inside a very old Phoenix warehouse, had two floors - ground level (with a 20 foot, at least, ceiling) and a basement level. The basement has all the small stuff (I found a cache of old Apple IIe software floppies there once - probably still there - included the staples, plus what looked like a complete version of Eamon). It is kinda spookie, since they don't get many walkins - just you, and the stuff. You go down into the basement, and all the windows are painted over - and it can be dark in areas. I went once near closing time - and I had to make sure to leave the basement before they closed, cause no doubt they would've locked and left without knowing I was down there.

        Global Recycling sounds promising to me, and it is just down the way from my house (it is located off of Deer Valley Rd, west off of Cave Creek Rd). It's drawback is it is B2B only, so you need an EIN or business license (maybe your employer will let you use theirs if you are buying only), but they also sell part by part, or any quantity. However, they are open only 7am to 4pm, M-F - which makes it tough for me to check them out (I am going to have to take a vacation day sometime just to do this).
    • by cr0sh ( 43134 )
      Oh yeah, one more - but they mostly are through a website and catalog ads (in Nuts and Volts, mostly), but they are based in Scottsdale:

      Electronic Goldmine [goldmine-elec.com]
  • I can't believe they had such a big section on Prof. Morse. As a student who works in the same building as him, I know that he is undoubtably the best scrounger on this campus. It's true his stuff is really old (like that huge bank of capacitors he has), but he seems to pull it all together. He has to do this becasue he probably doesn't get much money from NSF, et. al.
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @03:36PM (#2159527)
    As part of the NTF, the Petawatt will be open to the wider user community. Bauer and his colleagues plan to use it for fusion energy, plasma, atomic physics, environmental, and materials science studies, as well as in research for stockpile stewardship--

    --and nobody's yet proposed taking charge of it for the sole purpose of world domination? What's wrong with these geeks??

    The things I would do with a petawatt laser combined with, say, a small collection of orbiting satellites simply boggle the mind....

  • by lavaforge ( 245529 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @03:40PM (#2159558)
    Be careful what you scrounge, it can be dangerous sometimes.

    When I was in high school me and a buddy of mine helped the chemistry department head "inventory" the stock during a big move. We got everything under the sun. Unfortunately, we found out that some of the containers were mislabelled, and nearly blew our heads off opening a can of ether.

    Just a warning that scrounging isn't risk-free.

    • by Johnny5000 ( 451029 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @03:48PM (#2159597) Homepage Journal
      Before my computer programming days I worked in a biology lab.

      Not only did we find a bunch of mystery chemicals with no labels, but we found herring sperm.

      Unfortunately it was expired. Oh, the things I could have done with the herring sperm.

      That's got to be quite a job, working in the herring sperm factory.

      *wakes up in the morning*
      "Dammit, If I have to whack off one more herring, I'm going to die. I'll just die."

      "oh lord, when will you dry up this river of herring sperm I see before me?"


  • Argonne, Sandia, etc... have acres of stuff that they use for a contract then can't actually sell - it's a major drool factor that one can get their hands on... Then there's the surplus Buran shuttle that the Russians had to dump a few years back. Don't remember who got it. Maybe Cosmosphere in Kansas?
  • Man, I've been asking for that 2 ton laser ever since I was a kid. No one's ever been nice enough to give ME one.
  • PETAWATT laser?? God damn! Do you hear me? God damn!

  • I'm glad to see resourcefulness acknowledged by the slashdotters. It's a nice break from the Microsoft whining. Maybe we should give this guy some sort of award for teaching, something like the "First Annual MacGyver Award" or something...
    • Actually, I won the MacGuyver Challenge Award at this years LepreCon (www.leprecon.org/lep27/) in Scottsdale, AZ. I didn't do anything nearly this cool though...

  • Yep, the whole boiling water reactor all it's supporting equipment whent to the waste heap when the second unit of this power plant was not built. Thanks, Jimmy Carter (stupid pig, not nuclear engineer) for making the cost of building it three or four times greater than the cost of building unit I and only marginally safer! Anyone who wanted it was welcome to pay freight to cart it off. No one wanted it, and it was eventually hacked into pieces. Other large components such, as feed water pumps, suffered the same fate.

    Unit I had longes first run of it's type and has been 1GW onto the grid for 15 years. Unit II scrap and large multi million dollar hole.

    just my 2 cents per kilo watt hour.

  • "Computers are the most useless--they are right up there with disposable diapers in landfill."

    One of the scientists in the article claims (and a lot of commenters seem to agree) that old computers are as useless as disposable diapers. The researchers at Oak Ridge, TN would probably not agree. There was an article in the latest issue of Scientific American describing the Stone SouperComputer that was built at Oak Ridge National Labs because they needed a supercomputer to model environmental regions, but they couldn't afford one. They cobbled together a Beowulf cluster out of a bunch of obsolete surplus PCs that the lab had laying around.

    The article can be found online at: www.sciam.com/2001/0801issue/0801hargrove.html

    The photos that accompany the article are great.

    Not bad for a bunch of "disposable diapers."

    • I saw an interesting brown-purple box sitting in the hallway at Comp Services here at U. of Guelph [uoguelph.ca] today. Wanted to take it. Long story short, it was a Silicon Graphics Personal Iris, weighing in at about 50 lb, and unable to run any software or OS I would have any idea how to use (I'm a Windoze luser). I liked the case though, I had visions of gutting it and sticking my old P233 in it :-)
      • It's never a mistake to grab an old SGI - Irix is slick, and if you don't want it, you can be sure that someone you know will swap you something for it.

        I tried to grab this one [ofdoom.com] a couple of years ago when MSU [msu.edu] was getting rid of it.
        Someone beat me to it, but later that day, I got a call offering it to me, as it wouldn't fit through the door of my friend's apartment!
        I snapped it up, as I had plenty of room, and was working at a place where I had easy access to Irix disksets.
      • You should grab it, and learn how to use it... It could be the start of a whole run of goodie grabbing.
        In fact, the *whole point* of skip diving and gear scrounging is to get something cool that you're not quite sure what it is...
  • Many computers some of us here at slashdot may think of as disposables can come to great use for underprivilaged kids, schools, non-profit orgs, etc...
  • How come everyone calls it `scrounging' or sometimes `dumpster diving'?

    It was always `trashing' up at UConn...

    -grendel drago
    • here in New Zealand we call it "scabbing"
      Lovely huh?
    • Re:Trashing? (Score:2, Informative)

      Dumpster diving (or whatever you call it) is a subset of scrounging. Scrounging covers a wide range of activities for aquiring items from non-standard sources including getting it from the trash, cannibalizing old equipment, calling in favors from old friends, "horse trading", etc. Great scroungers seem to be able to get unique or rare items from nowhere; like locating a Chevy small-block engine in the middle of the Siberian tundra. For a great example of scrounging, check out James Garner's character in The Great Escape.

      "Don't ask." -The best response when asked how you scrounged a particularly difficult to find part.
  • SRI International (in Menlo Park) has an auction twice a year and do they have cool stuff!

    If you want a glovebox for your living room, a pallet of old Macintosh SE computers, old test instruments, a radar dish, or my favorite, the contents of a prototype intercept station with about 30 mil-grade HF recievers - this is the place to go.

    We picked up a large jar-bath which we put a life-sized plastic brain into that now reposes in our living room.

    http://www.sri.com/ (I think they should have one in a few months).

    -- Jamie
  • Damn, I'm not sure if I should do this as I don't want to see this place slashdotted and all of the good stuff picked over, but here goes... (I trust you guys to leave some cool parts for me.)

    I grew up in Los Alamos, NM, and am used to being in the shadow of the Lab. It is very much a "company town." As you would expect, LANL gets all of the cool toys and when it gets better toys, a lot of the stuff goes out to salvage. One of the town's more "colorful" residents, Ed Grothus, has been going to the Lab's salvage sales for decades and collecting anything he can get his hands on. He has *warehouses* full, and has collected the best bits into a "showroom" (read: a converted ex-supermarket that is stacked floor to ceiling with mounds of oscilliscopes, heaps of cable, PDP-11's, crates of microscopes, piles of office chairs, racks of test equipment, slides of test detonations, etc.) that he calls the Black Hole.

    It is *quite* something to see and enough to make any geek drool. *THIS* is the place to hold _Junkyard Wars_.
    I found this article [clui.org] on it. [NOTE: Author claims Black Hole was around since '69. Not true. The building was a "Shop & Go" (?? been a few years) until sometime after I graduated. I don't think he was open to the public (he did sell privately to movie makers and the like) until the supermarket was "converted".]

    I wish I had some of my photos of the place on-line to show y'all.

    There is a documentary out there that Ed sat me down to watch last time I was there called "Atomic Ed and the Black Hole" that gives you some pretty good glimpses into some of the stuff he has there. I have heard from friends that the film is in a few film festivals around the country.

    Los Alamos Sales Company Inc. : +1 (505) 662 7438.

  • When I was going to IIT, CNS (their network administrators) would throw out all kinds of stuff. They'd just leave it in piles in the corridors in the basement; it would get picked up later by whatever junk disposal service they had.

    Talk about geek-friendly. There were at least thirty of us down there every night, looking through the piles of sliced coax, battered 386s, and 70s-era printers for something that others might have overlooked. I scored some sw33t terminals off there...;)

    State schools, on the other hand...:(...I go to Portland State now, and they don't throw anything away. Since they're a state agency, it goes to a warehouse somewhere in Salem for "re-apportionment" to other agencies unlucky enough to be last in line for funding. Like they're going to use even half of that stuff!

    I also thought I could do some dumpster-diving here at work, but this is a FEDERAL agency, so no can do! I asked my boss where it all gets put. Her answer: "Remember that scene at the end of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', where the ark's getting put away in that huge warehouse?" So sad...think of all the electronics that only a geek could put to good use...rusting in the warehouse for two decades, until some droid decides to sell them...

    In the meantime, I'm thinking of checking out some other universities...in my experience, it's the private schools that usually just send the stuff away. Public schools usually have a program in place to see that it doesn't get "wasted".

    • The shop classes I took as a budding geek in high school were always well stocked with good trash. The AC/Refrigeration class was full of refrigerators found along the road that the class repaired and sold for profit, and the computer science class was well stocked with old computers (mainly from the days of TRS-80's and Apple II's- I was an 80's teen). The A/V room had surplus broken U-Matic videocassette recorders (Remember those? U-Matic was to video tapes what 8" floppies were to computers. These tapes were 3/4 inch wide in a cartridge the size of a textbook.) I ended up carting away old copiers, green monochrome monitors, mechanical adding machines, etc. one day when I helped my old shop teacher clean out the storeroom. Being blessed with a shed in the back yard, I started scrapping everything for motors, light bulbs, etc. I even removed individual components from circuit boards with a squeeze-bulb desoldering iron from RatShack, and categorized them and squirreled them away in plastic storage bins. Is that obsessive-compulsive or what?
  • How many of us have had to stop going to the local tech salvage shop because could'nt stop from spending money.
    You know your a real geek when these two conditions are met
    1. They know you by name
    2. You dumpster dive their bin.
  • I was at grad school with Toni Feder a dozen years ago, and since she got hired at Physics Today I've always taken note of her articles; we talk on the phone once in a while too. She's always finding something interesting and slightly controversial in what you would think were boring physics or astronomy subjects - good stuff!
  • scroungers gives a wrong idea of the skills of these guys. call them hardware hackers instead. or coin a new word. like 'scrapers'. or scraperz. or..
  • Greetings,
    I am involved in a non-profit org. that does just this. (CARP - the Creative Arts Reuse Project) our major project has been the Please Take M.E. (Materials Exchange) -- which in two years saved 7 tons of materials with only a 3000 sq. ft warehouse. The Please Take is run in conjuction with a local Dumpster Diving group (yes, and the DDers are 40+ people strong). While our major interest is in the Arts (and the environment, of course) our finds/materials are definitely cool for science teachers, home improvement, computing both vintage and current, robotics, and all sorts of other geek/nerd hobbies. We also work in conjunction with a very vibrant local computer-reuse community. Right now we're looking for a new warehouse space, but we have new office space and are really ramping up activity again. There is recent talk of white LEDs, lots of welding, cat5 cable, and 5,000 watt bulbs. Anyways, if you're in the Philadelphia region (or not) and are interested in ANY sorts of creative reuse of materials, scrounging, arts, the environment, dumpster diving, curb crawling, etc etc etc.. feel free to check out our (basic) website above, and by all means drop me an email.
    Oh, and if you just happen to need a tax deduction, we are an official 501(c)3 nonprofit ;)
    My AE-ms is true.
  • Scrounging has to be one of my favorite hobbies. One of best places in the New England area is the MIT Flea Market in Cambridge, MA. It's held the third Sunday of every month from May Throught October. What started as a ham-radio event has blossomed into a great place to find just about anything technology-wise. Just picked up a nice SparcServer 20 dual-processor system with all the trimmings for $200. Since Solaris 8 is downloadable and free it's giving me a break from loadinq BSD and Linux on everything in site.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall