Finding equipment

RADD’s first pieces of equipment were two Iomega Zip drives that were in a pile in the hall waiting for the trash collectors to arrive. At the time, I wasn’t even planning to build RADD; I just knew that plenty of people still had Zip disks, and I didn’t want the drives to be thrown away!

Installations like RADD can look out of reach due to the difficulty of finding older A/V equipment in usable condition at a reasonable price. Some pieces are inescapably expensive, it is true! (I would love a film digitizer and a microfilm/microfiche digitizer. I can’t afford them.) But savvy searching can help save money for the expensive stuff.

Rule one is “be patient.” If you need a piece of equipment immediately, expect to pay a premium for it. (I have, once or twice, when I’ve had a project in hand.) If you can wait for a deal, you’ll likely find one. Rule two is “find repairfolk.” You will need them! Ask your network.

Rule three is “ask your community first.” RADD, PROUD, and PRAVDA have benefited immeasurably from the generosity of people in the campus and Madison communities. You’ll be amazed at what people have!

Everyone knows about thrift stores, eBay, and Craigslist, but these are far from your only sources of viable equipment. Additional sources include:

  • Government or university surplus. These are often open to the public only on specific days. Some, as here, have online auctions—but do not limit yourself to those; some of the best gadgetry will only be found in the warehouse.
  • ShopGoodwill.com. Condition is never guaranteed, but I have had a lot of good luck here. Once you have an account, you can set up email alerts for items of interest. (If the item is commonly misspelled, set up an alert for the misspelling also.)
  • RecycledGoods.com. Mostly digital, some A/V. If the prices seem high, that’s because RecycledGoods actually tests equipment before resale. Listings will specify if something is not working, or not fully working.
  • PropertyRoom.com. An omnibus police auction site. Real gems are rare, but they do pop up now and again. Beware shipping charges.
  • Everything But The House. An estate-sale auction site. Good for vintage A/V. Shipping charges amazingly high, unfortunately.

Good luck!