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300 Keyboards

I’ve scanned in 99% of my old photographs, but every now and then I run across one that slipped through the cracks. This is one of those.


I’ve told this story before, but right around the year 2000, a co-worker of mine and I attended a local auction for a computer store that was going out of business. At the auction there were large cardboard boxes full of computer keyboards. The opening bid was crazy — something like $20 per box. My friend Don and I chuckled at the price and stopped paying attention. The auctioneer tried restarting the auction at ten dollars per box. Then five. Then, a dollar.

When bidding got down to 50 cents per box, I decided to bid on one. No one else bid and I won (or lost, depending on your point of view). What I didn’t realize was that the auctioneer had changed the auction to a “times the money” format, meaning I had just purchased thirteen cardboard boxes full of monitors for a total of $6.50.

Without a dolly at our disposal, Don and I searched the parking lot and appropriated a shopping cart. The two of us spent the next hour carting keyboards from the store out to Don’s extended-length van. In the end there were something like 350 keyboards, although once I had tossed out all the ones with missing keys and unknown connectors, the number was closer to 300. At some point we called Susan, who arrived just in time to cram the remaining keyboards into the trunk and passenger seat of her car.

The keyboards were all relocated to my garage. They were stacked down the right hand side up against the wall. The stack was roughly four-foot tall and ran the entire length of the garage.

I sold one keyboard to a co-worker for $10, turning an instant profit. I pulled out a few heavy-duty old-school IBM keyboards from the collection, which were heavy and loud and my favorites, and used them for a few years. I tried giving keyboards away to everybody I knew. After everyone I knew was sick of hearing about or seeing keyboards, Susan and I hauled them over to my dad’s house and set them out in a giant pile for big trash pickup.

For another year or so, occasionally we would find a random key from a keyboard in the garage or in Susan’s car.

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2 comments to 300 Keyboards

  • Scott Tirrell

    I love the old IBM M keyboards. I recently bought a keyboard from Unicomp so I could have a modern one with USB (and being a Mac-owner, Mac centric keys). I don’t think my co-workers would appreciate it if I brought it into work but I love having it at home.