How To Get The Most
Out Of The
Pi Computer Show and Sale
By Dave Ottalini, VP Publicity
Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint
Whether you've gone to the Washington Apple Pi Computer
Show and Sale once or a dozen times, there's always
something exciting about it. The reason is you never know
what "must-have" item you are going to find. And while there
are some great buys waiting for you, any good consumer needs
to walk into these kinds of events having done a little
homework ahead of time and a plan in mind.
What Is A Computer Show And Sale Anyway?
Washington Apple Pi has held flea-market style garage
sales for years. Their primary purpose is to let people with
great stuff sell it to people who are looking for great
stuff. That could include a "new" used computer but it goes
way beyond that. Look around and you'll see folks happily
carting off monitors, games, business software, cables,
inkjet cartridges, hard drives and more memory for their
This is an event where you can find just about anything
Macintosh you might want or need. But you have to come early
to find the best stuff. And you have to be willing to
negotiate -- to "talk turkey" to get the best prices.
Remember, this is a flea-market event -- vendors
bringing stuff to sell. They don't want to take it home.
Your job is to offer a price that lets them go away happy
with cash while you go away happy with a great piece of Mac
hardware or software.
And did I mention the fun of seeing old friends and the
opportunity to talk everything Mac with total strangers?
It's not uncommon to see folks pipe up and add their own two
cents worth during somebody else's conversations. Everyone
has an opinion about the Mac and the stuff that makes it go.
At the Computer Show and Sale, you will have the wonderful
opportunity to hear those opinions -- sometimes
whether you want to or not!
Once you've purchased your stuff you might need it
checked out or need to have something installed. Washington
Apple Pi's technical wizards are there to help you. They can
take a look at that great computer buy to see if it really
works, install memory in it or a new hard drive. They can
even install software for you. You can also bring in your
machine from home or work and get a "check up" to see if it
is as healthy as you hope it is. They are also happy to give
you their opinion about whether something is a good buy or
not, or help you find something that you saw "somewhere on
the floor." All these great services do come with a price
-- a donation to help the club keep doing good works
for its members. You go away with a little piece of
Finally, the Computer Show and Sale is a great place to
renew your membership -- or join the club. Memberships
make great presents for Mac owners you know. You can also
purchase a goodies-packed Pi Fillings CD-ROM or other
treasures that might be on hand.
Enough Already, I Want To Buy Something!
Please remember that as with any flea-market style sale
like this, you should have a good idea of what you want
before you shop. What exactly is it that you are looking
for? What does it need to do? If you want a computer to surf
the Internet you'll need a Mac capable of doing that. Does
it have an Ethernet port or a PCI slot for an Ethernet card
so you can use a cable/DSL Internet connection? Read the Mac
magazines, look at the catalogs, ask another Pi member and
write things down. In fact, it's a good idea to bring a
catalog or two with you to help do some comparison shopping
-- especially if you're looking for more memory or
If it's software you're after, know what you need to do
with it. Can that version of the software handle the
projects you need to complete? Will the kids play with the
game more than just a couple of times? Can the educational
software be both challenging and fun?
Ask lots of questions when you are considering a
purchase, and make sure that what you want to buy works.
Take if for a test drive if possible. Vendors at the
Computer Show and Sale may be individuals, businesses who
make the rounds of these kinds of sales or local computer
stores. For the vast majority, you are taking a chance
buying equipment because you are not dealing with an
"established" business you can go back to. On bigger
purchases, be sure to get the name, address and phone number
of the vendor you are buying from and check to see if they
will offer any warranty or be willing to switch out a
defective piece of equipment with another one if necessary.
I have found the vendors to be reputable, but always
remember that most of the computer equipment is sold "as is"
and all sales are usually final.
That said, these kinds of venues are great places to find
inexpensive computer hardware, software and peripherals. I
have shopped the Washington Apple Pi Show and Sale for many,
many years and have found some terrific bargains. Remember
too, that many vendors only deal in cash so come with enough
to handle what you want to buy. And don't be afraid to
dicker. That's part of the fun.
So What Should I Buy?
The key here for Mac users looking for a "new" used
computer is to only buy a Power PC Mac. Even the original
6100's can do word processing and Internet by dial-up or
cable/DSL (they do have an Ethernet port for high speed
connections). The case for a newer model would be speed and
the ability to handle more memory, as well as cheaper (and
larger) IDE drives. We are starting to see more and more
iMacs and other G3 Macs for sale. With some upgrades
(usually memory is the focus here) they can even run Mac OS
X. But be sure to ask! And remember that a Pi volunteer is
almost always available to provide additional guidance and
expertise. Volunteers have name tags or are wearing black Pi
If you need software, you should be able to find
Claris/AppleWorks or an older version of Microsoft Word or
Microsoft Office for word processing from many of the
vendors on site. Note that you may need an older version of
Netscape or Internet Explorer depending on which version of
the Mac OS you are using (check out the Pi Fillings CD-ROM
for that software). Pi provides volunteers, by the way, to
check hardware and install software for you for a donation.
If you want to do email (and who doesn't these days!)
there are many ways to go about it.
One great way is with a Pi membership -- which
includes one email address as part of the package. You can
buy more email addresses inexpensively. And best of all,
members can now send and receive emails online from any Web
browser and any machine anywhere on the Internet.
The Pi Computer Show and Sale is held twice yearly.
Highly anticipated, it is just plain fun. Where else can you
go and see old friends, get great bargains, renew your
membership and eat a hotdog all at the same event? All the
information you need is online at http://www.wap.org. That
includes a coupon worth $1.00 off your general admission
-- member or not!
Here are the actual prices (as of December 2002; check
the web for any updates):
- Members $6.00
- Non-Members $7.00
- Table rentals:
- Table without electricity - $20
- Table with electricity - $30.00 (limited
availability; get there early)
All vendors must bring their own extension cords and
Finally, if you have any tips or suggestions about how to
get the most out of a Computer Show and Sale like the
semi-annual events sponsored by Washington Apple Pi, let me
know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll update this article
Dave Ottalini is a long-time Pi member and VP-Publicity
for the club. He is a Senior Media Relations Associate at
the University of Maryland.