Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

How To Get The Most
Out Of The
Pi Computer Show and Sale

By Dave Ottalini, VP Publicity

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

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 computers.

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 mind.

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 hard drives.

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 polo shirts.

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 power strips

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 dave.ottalini@wap.org and I'll update this article as possible.

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.