Ever wonder how surplus electronic equipment (herein called Boatanchors) makes the transition from being a government asset to you, the purchaser? Dave Stinson, AB5S/7, offers this humorous and somewhat true account of how the process happens in the United States. It would not be too far fetched to believe that the same procedure could likely be applied by any government bureaucracy at any level in any other country.Typically, someone gets excited about the latest 'Whiz-Bang' box with all of the available 'bells and whistles'. Bids are requested, the new 'toy' is procured and a working piece of gear is replaced and declared surplus. Thus begins the carefully planned aging and curing process that ferments a valuable taxpayer asset into a fine hamfest Boatanchor.

First, the working gear is retired to a dark, hidden shelf for a few years so the capacitors can ripen properly. One dreadful day, "Da Boss" comes through the shop and brays: "We gotta clean up! Da Division Head is comin' for an inspecshun! Get all this ole' junk OUTTA here!" The harried technicians quickly stack the ripened gear on a pallet, (typically called a 'lot') along with many other items which are completely unrelated. Careful planning ensures that the relevant accessories and cables for those Boatanchors end up in a different lot - typically, the one containing used mouse traps and broken door knobs. The Division Head never does show up. The lot sits on the loading dock for about another year and a half while the paperwork mill grinds away. This permits the junked gear to become comfortable with the broken light fixtures, ribbon-less typewriters and burned-out coffee makers.

An important ritual right-of-passage happens at this point in time. At least once a month, the lot is inventoried. Why any one must 'inventory' something that has been declared junk is unknown. When taking inventory of fledgling Boatanchors, it's standard practice to mark them in some way so they won't be recounted more than once in the same week. The most effective method of ensuring that equipment won't be recounted, is to mark the gear with a drippy, runny, splat of cheap spray paint. Hitting the front panel is an absolute requirement. Indelibly burying the dial markings in gooey paint can mean an extra coffee or tea break in the afternoon. Covering the tuning dials, the maker's markings and binding the tuning shafts with a thick coat of the gunk is known as a 'grand slam' and can earn the perpetrator an annual salary increase. Obliterating fine symbols such as Collins, National or Hallicrafters is another favourite game but it requires careful aiming of the spray nozzle. This practice scores additional 'brownie' points with the boss.

After this first aging and refining process, our Boatanchor- to-be faces a perilous journey through the remainder of the system until it reaches its final destination - you the purchaser. No gear, regardless of quality, can truly become a Boatanchor without passing through the final 'curing' process. After several seasons of being stored outside and cooked in 100 degree summers, buried in six foot snow banks, and being soiled on by field mice, your future treasure finally reaches that bleached-out, plastic-rotted, dead capacitor, seized-knob state we know and love as BOATANCHOR-HOOD. It usually takes the paper pushers only one or two more years to get the lot on the sale list and out to the marketplace. Good luck to all you Boatanchor aficionados.

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