Under The Bridge Downtown Pt. 1

HEY HEY! Check out my guest comic over at Dinosaur comics!
Special thanks to Rob D of Cyanide and Happiness [the guy I’m talking to in the comic].

There are certain intangible benefits to attending a twice-a-month computer sale that happens under an overpass in Downtown Dallas between the hours of midnight and 6am. First and foremost among them is observing the high octane batshit crazies that such an event draws. The “First Saturday Sale” as it is known among local nerds (though now it happens on the first and third Saturdays of each month) is something very near and dear to me. It was my first new ritual upon moving to Dallas. My friends would gather up in a vehicle around 11pm the final Friday of the month and head to to an incredibly shady area of Downtown Dallas in search of Pentium II processors, Soundblaster 16 bit sound cards, Ram that was still measured in MB’s and hard drive’s who’s GB’s barely tipped the double digits.

UPDATE: The print is in the store for a limited time! Get it while you can.

Under The Bridge Downtown Print
BUY THE PRINT HERE!

We used to go to First Saturday with specific missions. Someone’s machine need some sort of minor upgrade and it was up to all of us to dig through hundred of boxes strewn across 4 vacant parking lots (before they moved under the overpass) in order to find it. Eventually haggling over case fans and the like was no longer neccessary as that all computer components could be found cheaply online (and with a much better warranty than “might be broke… might not be”). But I still maintained the ritual for a good while. The thing I came to realize is that the only people weirder than those that would stand in a vacant lot for 24 hours with a rented U-Haul full of slightly damaged 15″ CRT’s is someone who would leave the comfort and safety of their home in the wee hours of the night in order to seek out those same CRT’s. The place was teeming with a magnificent abundance of weirdos.

The people watching became it’s own event. A type of sport. Who can spot the weirdest weirdo? One of my personal favorites was the middle aged married dork couple that spent the whole evening communicating back and forth via giant plastic (possibly toy) head-mounted walkie talkies. “There’s a really good deal on canned air over hear, hun. By the big stack of ATX cases and control top panty hose.”

I seem to remember First Saturday closing down for a few months and just that easily I forgot about it. That was almost 10 years ago. I went back (to the new location) a handful of times, but I hadn’t been in the last 4 or 5 years until last weekend. Rob D. and I had been tossing the idea around for a while. Neither of us needed any particular hardware. I just wanted to see if the general oddness of the whole thing had been properly maintained. Had they cleaned up their act or was it still desperate, ghoulish people selling broken, unwanted e-trash. I was actually worried that it would be super boring and normal and I would have dragged Rob down there for nothing. Let me assure that my fears were unfounded as that the First Saturday Sale was a fucking symphony of obsolescence and absurdity. There is little to no exaggeration in today’s comic. Ok, panel 3 actually contains quite of bit of exaggeration. The guy wasn’t ranting, but he did have an “Obam-ulance” on display. In addition to random computer parts he was also selling lube. I bought a case for my mom’s iPod nano from him for $1.

My plan is to stick with this “story line” for the rest of the week so I hope you enjoy it. Nut jobs and boxes of crap. What else could you ask for?

  • here are a few more Tweeted pics to put the whole thing into perspective: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
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42 Comments

    • i actually put that there because one time I went to first saturday and this guy had a box with maybe 500 cue cats in it. He was selling them for $5 each. This was right after someone wrote a generic driver for it that turned it into a standard barcode reader.

  1. I used to go to this with my little brother when I was in college and he was in high school! Was it always at night, though? I distinctly remember us going during the day. We were usually searching for parts for my mom's Leading Edge Model D computer, which she refused to give up in favor of something that ran Windows or any other OS with a GUI as late as 2000. I think the DOS word processing program reminded her of a typewriter.

  2. What? Where's the Wurst Wagon? That was the _real_ reason to go. The Finest German Sausages, and a hot mustard that would blow your head clean off.

    Then sit back and watch the crazies!

    • As of last weekend it wasnt there. Not sure if it ever made it to the new location. They had a taco truck that was also doing fried spiral cut potatoes.

  3. Reading this comment and the post that followed, I just picture the Cat Lady from the Simpsons being there, except instead of throwing cats, she's throwing Apple II floppies, a hand sized mouse with two foot long cord, and boxes of Windows 95, while she's screaming code for Cobol.

  4. "Available on 2 floppies, 3 VHS, or 400 AOL CD's" – The last one's for customers who don't want Obama's Secret Police finding it; it's literally burned into the empty space on 400 working AOL signup discs. Anyone searching the house will just find a bunch of AOL discs, no more than the average household is expected to have.

    The installer is on disc #217 and is called "wprsc32.ini". Copy it to your desktop and change the extension to ".exe" to run it.

    • "into the empty space on 400 working AOL signup discs"

      I really appreciate that you discovered my exact thought process on that one.

  5. After Dark was THE screen saver pack to have on your Mac and I guess later Windows machine, deadrobot. That’s where the flying toasters came from.

  6. I can't believe it still exists! I worked for a small computer store in '99 that participated in that particular melting pot of madness. Every first Saturday for several months, I could be found sitting on the back of a rental truck, hawking our wares at (barely) discounted rates, or wandering the electronic wastes, in search of good bargains and perhaps a chili dog.

    If memory serves, the content out there was great at midnight, but then the quality declined rapidly until the sun came up, when it devolved into a heaping yard sale of indisputable crap sold by stark raving lunatics… which… is sort of what it sounds like now.

    • Exactly! Even though it existed during the day you had to get there right as the trucks were being unloaded to get any good deals. Back in '99 it was MUCH more relavent. Tech was still really expensive and used tech was hard to come by. I would buy a box of 10 or so untested hard drive, keep the good ones (usually 1 or 2) and RMA the rest to the original manufacturer if they were still under warranty. I used to know the maxtor warranty codes so I could tell from the serial number if it would be returnable or not.

  7. The shareware Doom reference brings me back. I used to go to the flea market and computer shows and dig through the shareware floppy bins for golden obscure little gems.

      • Its crazy to think… the things we used to pay for before the internet. I happily paid my $2.50 for a floppy disk with a poorly printed label and a freeware game on it. It was for the "convenience" of having somebody else go on the magical expensive internet and download it for you. It sounds weird when I think about it now.

  8. I haven't thought about "First Saturday" in years. I haven't BEEN to First Saturday in about 13 or 14 years! My partner and I used to come to Dallas (from Waco) every month and do the swap meet in the morning and spend the rest of the day at Six Flags. We always needed something or other for the BBS we ran. The only really dodgy item I bought there was a motherboard with a TI Cyrix (386 era) chipset. I never got that to work and 40 MHz remained a dream for almost another year.

    • I would say at this point it isnt worth a trip from Waco. Its not as big and not quite the macabre spectacle that it used to be. Though if you are in town for a legit reason it cant help to check it out again for old times sake. The biggest difference is all the CRT's are replaced with tables and tables of flat panels.

      Im having a hard time remembering what my best score was there. Once I bought a whole box of logitech wireless bundles (mice keyboards and game controllers) when such things were barely on the landscape. I think they were over $100 a set in the store and we got like 5 or 6 sets for $15 each. Almost all of it was somewhat broken and hardly stayed connected well enough to actually use.

  9. I have at least one uhaulload of servers, switches, peripherals, and Commander Keen floppies. Let's setup a table and have a makeshift FBcon. Record a podcast. Maybe accidentally get murdered by some hobos. We could donate 2% to a worthy charity. Like the Irish Rite For Getting This Shit Out Of Farris's Garage and Office Children's Hospital and Midget Barber Shop.

    I am definitely kidding. Not. Definitely.

    • Based on what I saw (assuming you havent been in a while) unless you were selling that stuff for $5 each you would probably be taking it home. It was all flat screens and knock off ipod docks. There is also a new contingent of off brand shoes, shampoo/bath products and ladies unmentionables.

  10. Thanks for the memories Joel. When I started to read your strip today I thought to myself “wow, this reminds me of Dallas back in the 90’s”. Little did I know that swap meet was still going on to this day.

  11. that is awesome. Crazy watching is among the top ten reasons I used to go to the Hillsboro Auction in Hillsboro, Oregon years ago. I once bought a portable commodore 64 with about 200 floppies for something like $30.00. Why I don't still have it is beyond me. It had disks for the original Mario Brothers AND Breakin' 2. It was a thing of beauty.

  12. I remember my best score from all those years ago. This guy on the back of a pickup truk had a TRUCK full of MS-DOS 6.0 on 360k floppy for $20 bucks. FULL of them. Like boxes. I sooo needed it for my Kpro. Sigh. I miss the old one, there were so much electronics there.

    Still go though. There is this one vender that just gets boxes of crap, but there is always something good in it. Must get there at 12 though:P

  13. We honestly have a guy like this in our town. He sits at one of the main intersections ranting at people. I think he's beautiful, but nobody agrees with me. I was biking around with my then-girlfriend and stopped to listen to him while she glared daggers at me over his shoulder. He told us all about how the North American economy would collapse because of the Midget Queen of Canada. I couldn't make this stuff up.
    Here's a video of him in action at the state fair! Political ranting aside he also had a gun on him and had barged through the gates without paying admission. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppBZM88mHvQ

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