Chapter II: Old Tech

Being in San Francisco is in many ways like visiting ground zero of a city vaporized by a nuclear explosion.

The buildings are still standing, and the city is still inhabited, but the wreckage of the explosion is everywhere. It’s not a physical explosion; it’s more like a psychological bomb has detonated, destroying the economy of the city in a single flash.

Unemployed tech workers are everywhere. The ruins of the dot-com economy litter the landscape.

When the bomb fell on Japan at the close of World War II, something peculiar happened: The structures directly beneath the explosion remained standing, while everything all around was utterly levelled.

The equivalent in San Francisco is Weird Stuff.

Imagine a cavernous warehouse, stretching almost to infinity, packed to the roof with ancient, cast-off computer technology and the liquidated remnants of a dozen failed dot-com companies.

Row after row of old computers. Miles of cable, no doubt pulled from the walls of office buildings and sold in bulk for pennies on the dollar. Boxes of liquid-crystal displays and rackmount modems and data-acquisition cards from VMEbus computers. Programmable logic analyzers. Macintosh SEs. Parts from discarded mainframes. VAXstations!

They had VAXstations!

Solaris 1.0 CDs. Empty 19-inch racks. Silicon Graphics computers. Gutted RAID arrays as tall as a man’s head.

I have a SPARCststion-20 server system at home. I have not used it, because it requires a proprietary keyboard and mouse only available from Sun.

$19.95 at Weird Stuff.

From Hell, one escapes into Heaven.

I could have spent a week and a thousand dollars there, were it not for the fact that I would try kellyv‘s infinite patience.

The taste for old tech is a specific thing, built into one’s very genes. If one does not have this taste, then it seems weird and slightly deranged.

kellyv finds my collection of obsolete computers weird and slightly deranged. She puts up with it with humor and good grace, but there’s no denying the fact that my prized collection of TRS-80s and ancient Apple machines is something she suffers benevolently, rather than something that fills her heart with nostalgic glee as it does mine.

My tour, Dante-esque, through a cross-section of Hell and of Heaven complete, it was time to hook up with Shelly to check into the hotel, do some serious fucking, and sample what the city has to offer.

The first two, she and I could accomplish on our own. To do the third, we would need a guide.

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