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The Server Graveyard

A little personal confession: I love browsing through the old stuff at GovDeals. It has all the thrill of browsing through eBay in the early 2000s. It hasn’t become completely commodified yet, so there’s still the chance of a good bargain. Plus, for an online auction site, there’s a great bit of regional identity to the auctions, mainly because most of the government offices auctioning these items don’t want to worry about shipping.

If you ever have a need for a late model Charger with an obscene amount of miles, this is your auction site.

150,000 miles in two years is totally normal, right?

But my absolute favorite is looking through all the old tech. Often it’s what you would expect. The site abounds with Dell monitors, mini-tower PCs, and forever obsolete inkjet prints. But it’s when the site gets weird that it’s at its best. I love seeing the swings and misses of these public departments. Sometimes it’s a 3D printer that was just a little two forward thinking. Just recently, Erie County was selling 38 lots of old Droid Xyboard tablets, each fitted with a keyboard. It’s in these instances, the story behind the technology almost leaps out. Clearly, this was someone’s idea of a solution. Google’s first take on a tablet specific version of Android looked good enough to someone that they thought this was better than a fleet of laptops. Maybe they were for students, or perhaps used by surveyors. They’re the failed dreams of local technologists everywhere.

The Xyboard of Broken Dreams

This extends to the server rack as well. If you want to run a server like it’s 2008, you can do so on the cheap. Sure you can load up on defunct PowerEdge and ProLiant pizza boxes, but it’s in the weird margins that you start to wonder about. How about a server from GMD? Who is GMD? I think they might be a Shelbyville Tennessee computer shop based on a quick Google search. But if wasn’t for GovDeals, I’d never have heard of them! The hardware spans whole era’s in computing, from P3 equipped IBM units, to some still pretty competent Dell blade servers from around 2010 (available for less than $1/lb). But it’s the misfits and anachronisms that catch my eye. I always keep an eye out for an old PDP-11, that’s definitely on the bucket list.

But by far the best recent find was an old Macintosh SE. It has a simple description: One Apple SE- used as server. Age and working condition are unknown.

The Little Trooper

Seeing that it was used as a server, I was curious. Had this been in use until recently? What was it serving? Can I negotiate to get one of those cool leaves in the background? So I decided to email the listing. Sadly, my dreams of a 30 year old Mac still in everyday use was false. The Mac was bought in 1988 and was used as an AppleShare server in the London School District, taken out of service in the mid-90s. I guess I was hoping it was being used to serve an old webpage all this time. Sadly, this little platinum-colored classic was sitting in a closet, when spring cleaning caused it to go up on GovDeals.

The little SE still gets some respect. When they were talking about getting rid of it at a school board meeting, one of the members called it an antique. When the District Technology director heard this, she piped up. She was the librarian who originally bought it, and proudly proclaimed “it couldn’t be an antique because I bought it!”

In the enterprise world of cattle replacing pets, it’s nice to find one old tabby mixed in among the short ribs.

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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