"Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I appear to have accidentally nudged it off the table" I say, as tears well up in the owner's eyes.
"I've had that since university!" he gasps.
"I didn't think they made 150 DPI scanners in the neolithic era – or had scanners," I sniff.
"It was perfect," he wails, dropping to his knees.
"Obviously it wasn't or you wouldn't have brought it in today," I point out.
"I just wanted to be able to use it again,” he mumbles, a tear slowly making its way down his cheek. “It was so simple.”
“It had a parallel interface!” It was older than the hill's parents!”
He's genuinely hurt. “What do I do now, then?"
"You have, as I see it, 3 options,” I say:
“a) Look around places in the country, dumps and car boot sales for and exact replacement - though something like this is rare as rocking horse shit. b) You upgrade to the 21st, 20th or 19th century and get a USB one. Or: d) Take the pieces of this and start a CNC project, as the steppers in that are fairly chunky. Not as chunky as some of the ones in printers we unknowingly threw out back in the day, though - you could have made an electric car out of them."
"Really? How far would it get before the power ran out?"
"That would depend on the length of your extension lead."
He shuffles. "Uh, you said THREE options, but you missed out on c)..."
"Oh yes, of course. Use the camera in your phone!"
"THERE'S A CAMERA IN MY PHONE?!!" It's like I've told him the Earth's round instead of flat.
"Most probably. Let's have a look."
As the briefcase opens I realise why the PFY let me have this bloke at the technology refurbishment day.
"Is that a brick phone?" the PFY gasps happily, as the bloke removes the aforementioned item.
"Yes, it's one of the first batch of 500 ever made."
"What's the battery life on those?" the PFY asks.
"Surprisingly good." our punter responds.
"Really? I thought they ran at about 3 watts and the battery ran out about the same time as you could smell your brain burning?"
“Oh no,” says our punter. “I had this retrofitted at another save-the-technology day. A nice young man replaced the internals and battery with parts from a few other phones and now the battery life is about 93 days."
I take the phone from him and have a shufti. Judging by the weight alone it's probably 2/3 battery, but the bloke concerned has done a nice job. The old fashioned keyboard is replaced by a touch LCD, all lovingly hand-fitted into the original case. It's a work of art, I have to admit.
"And you got this retofitted at one of these days, you say?"
"Oh yes, by that chap over there.." Our old gent indicates a bloke with all the hallmarks of a serial hoarder, so I show the old fella how to use the 5MP camera which is built tastefully into the side of the phone where the extra antenna was supposed to screw in, then wander on over to see the refurber.
The bloke concerned really does have the telltale signs alright – he's surrounded by small wheeled bins full of the sort of stuff you leave outside an Oxfam shop before running like hell. PS2 keyboards and mice, the internals of masses of stereo kit, trays and trays of desoldered components – hoarding is a disgusting affliction.
As I make my way over I notice – no, it can't be!
"It's an LP05!" I gasp
"It's a what?!" the PFY asks.
"You're too young to know," I reply, "but these babies were THE midsize printer of their era"
"I can tell," the PFY sneers, "but where do you shovel the coal?"
"You don't appreciate quality!" I snap. "THIS," I say, pushing back the cover, "is the soundproof cover – which had all the effectiveness of saying 'noise, what noise?' to yourself repeatedly, and is responsible for most of my age-related deafness. And THIS is the gate. You open this, take the ribbon off like so – careful, or you'll get ink on your clothes from sheer proximity – and behold the drum."
“It's sort of cool I guess,” the PFY grudgingly admits.
"Sort of cool?! Listen, with the ribbon off you can slam the gate on an engineer's tie and it'd pull his face inexorably into the drum. If you got him on the left-hand side, he'd almost never reach the offline button in time! Beautiful."
"Yes she is," the hoarder says, creeping up while I was occupied. "I restored her myself!"
Restored? "How much you want for it?"
"It's not for sale."
"But you cart it around to places like this?"
"I'm trying to find someone with a VAX 11/780 as I have the interface card."
"WE HAVE AN 11/780," I gasp, "In our Boss's office! Which is why he volunteered us for this."
As if by magic the Boss appears, acting casual, but really just checking up on us. "What's this, then?"
"It's the first printer I ever worked on," I reply. "I've been trying to bum the drum off this bloke."
"What's so special about the drum?"
"It's got the entire upper and lower-case alphabet, numbers and symbols etched into the drum in columns, offset by one. It's a work of art!"
"Oh yeah", the Boss says, "It is quite –“
"Can we go now?" I ask the Boss as his face inches down to the rotating drum. "Think quickly if you don't want to look like you fell off your bike on the way to school!"
"YES, YES!" he gasps, staggering back.
"Now," I say to Mr Hoarder. "If you refurbished this you must have spares – like a drum...."
One quick trade later, he has an 11/780, I have my precious drum, the Boss has some small grazes on his chin, and the PFY has ink all over his clothes from not listening. All in all, a great day's work. ®
Parts of this story, including Simon's love of the LP05 drum, are completely true...