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History of bulk electronic components suppliers

Discussion in 'Electronic Components' started by Mark Aitchison, Feb 11, 2007.

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  1. Hi,
    purely out of curiosity, is there anyone who can tell me what happened
    to popular electronics mail-order companies of the 1970s like Poly Paks
    in the US and BiPak & BiPrePak in the UK? There must have been a trend
    that killed them off, and caused other medium sized names to shrink
    while a few grew very large? Is there a book on this element of history??

    Mark A
  2. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    I always assumed it was due to a decline in hobby interests, electronics

  3. It's easy to see a trend after the fact, but a reality is that even long
    standing businesses can go under. There have been some long existing chains
    here in Canada that went out of business in the past decade or so, and the
    immediate reaction is "but they've been there forever, how can it be...".
    The fact that the businesses had been around for a long time does not
    mean they are impervious to all the problems businesses have, it just
    makes it a lot more noticeable.

    Poly-Paks just sort of faded out. Unlike a lot of things, I can't recall
    any exact time when it disappeared. I suspect their prime had peaked before
    they actually closed down.

    A lot of their stuff was surplus. They started out in the early sixties,
    at a time when semiconductors were still relatively new, and so they
    were supplying things that the old-line stores weren't, and maybe doing
    it at a better price than a lot of places that did sell the parts (because
    they were selling surplus). But later, other outlets had come along to
    sell to hobbyists, either old-style stores adapting or new places starting
    up, and they were generally better than Poly-Paks. They had a wider range,
    their prices were good, and they weren't selling things of dubious origins.
    Say post-1975, there were other places to buy that sort of thing, but the
    other places had everything you'd need. Poly-Paks hadn't changed much,
    including their ads, and while you could get an 8080 from them by
    that point (though I can't remember if they had a better price on them
    or not), they didn't have all the peripheral ICs or even TTL to put
    together a computer. ANd as digital logic took over in a lot of things,
    the projects got more complicated. So while being able to get a transistor
    in the early sixties might have been neat, or get a PLL IC in the early
    seventies because you wanted to play around with them for their own sake,
    as the projects got more complicated the "neat IC" was a lesser part of
    it all, and my recollection is that Poly-Paks couldn't supply it all.

    Their closing down might have been a result of this, or it might have
    been a result of overbuying something and getting stuck with too much
    stock and not enough cash, like any business has to be concerned with.
    Or maybe an owner died, and nobody wanted to take over. I don't know,
    but there are lots of factors that could have been the issue that
    had nothing to do with a "trend".

  4. Salmon Egg

    Salmon Egg Guest

    If you think electronic hobbyists are having trouble getting basic stuff
    consider hobby chemists. With the incredibly stupid war on drugs and the
    war's even more stupid means of enforcement it is virtually impossible to
    buy simple chemicals such as acids. In some states, possessing chemical
    glassware is becoming a felony. Laboratory supply houses like VWR are no
    longer accessible. UPS is imposing incredibly high hazardous material
    shipping charges. Suppliers, if you can find them, are loathe to sell small
    quantities to jerks who might sue them later.

    If electronics still used vacuum tubes instead of semiconductors that
    operate at much lower voltage, selling electronic stuff would open the
    vendors to too much liability.

  5. All part of the ongoing war on intelligence and knowledge? It looks like it
    is the only one the US is winning!
  6. John  Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    I can buy gallons of hydrochloric and sulfuric acids at most any
    hardware store or Home Depot. Ditto all sorts of organics. Some
    specific Meth precursors are getting hard to buy, which is good...
    meth does a lot of harm.

    There are lots of mail-order lab-ware suppliers around. What states
    are you referring to? Have they shut down all their school chem labs,
    university chemistry departments, pharmacies, and pathology labs?

    Tube-type (20 KV color) TV's are still on sale, as are plasma
    displays, hv backlit LCDs, ionizers, copy machines, neon signs, bug
    zappers, microwave ovens. And there are plenty of HV fets, diodes,
    transformers, and power supplies in the Mouser catalog. All that
    whining is uninformed nonsense.
    How many scientific Nobel prizes has Canada scored lately? I can't
    remember seeing a Canadian electronic or scientific instrument that
    looks worth buying. There certainly must be some, but there's no
    obvious glaring intellectual advantage that Canada's advanced social
    policies have created. You may dislike Americans, but to claim the US
    is short on intelligence and knowledge is, well, stupid.

  7. The UK is far more locked down than the US. While I could buy a small
    amount of H2SO4 with a motorcycle baterry, it is the ONLY way I can do it,
    a few tens of millilitres at a time with a waste of hard-to-recycle plastic
    and lead as waste.

    Fortunately, a bit of invention (and good advice) got me the isopropanol
    and acetone I need for optics assembly cleaning. I gave up on the idea of
    home anodising because the few places that would sell what I needed are
    only allowed to sell complete kits here (at exorbitant prices). It's so
    ruthless that even these will go out of business very soon, once people
    realise they can never privately buy the acid needed to re-stock their
    original investment.

    There are one or two chemical shops online in the UK, but they offer stuff
    almost exclusively useful to those who want to make explosives! I
    researched their names (and associated names found in conjunction) and
    found more than one forum of amatuer chemists occasionally discussing them.
    The general consensus is that such sites are fronts designed to hook the
    stupid would-be bomber. Their owners certainly never answered any question
    of mine, which they would if they'd had any real intention and ability to
    sell the stuff.

    We do live in increasingly paranoid times. I'm not sure how, or even IF,
    thius can explain the lack of hobby electronics sales. Maybe it can. A lot
    of the public is becoming increasingly frightened of science in general.
  8. Zak

    Zak Guest

    Could it be that instead military funding is also part research funding?

  9. John  Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

  10. Barry Lennox

    Barry Lennox Guest

    There's still lots of chemicals available over the counter under the
    guise of industrial, common or trade names, you just have to hunt them
    down. There's some websites that help.

    Given the vast number of drug labs that they bust (and I guess that
    might be the tip of the iceberg) restrictions on the procurement of
    chemicals is an abject failure.

    I understood posssion *without lawful excuse* was the offence. A home
    chemical lab for experimenting surely is lawful Surely it's the same
    as building a simple 555 timer, it could be used for experimenting,
    hacking, learning, messing about, or; as a bomb timer. Does that mean
    that possession of 555's is a felony?

  11. Good point, I dont need one either.

    They must have done something....

  12. On Mon, 12 Feb 2007 11:29:27 +1300, in Barry
    Ask Boston ;-)

  13. To assess public opinion on creationism, Gallup asked:

    Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin
    and development of human beings?
    1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced
    forms of life, but God guided this process,
    2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced
    forms of life, but God had no part in this process,
    3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time
    within the last 10,000 years or so?

    Polled in November 2004, 38% of respondents chose (1), 13% chose (2), 45%
    chose (3), and 4% offered a different or no opinion. These results are also
    similar to those from previous Gallup polls, which extend back to 1982.

    83% think it was a god? The war on intelligence and knowledge has been won!


    Sixth-Grader Gets Perfect SAT Math Score

    TaeHun Kim Takes Geometry Class At Campus Middle School

    DENVER -- A sixth-grader at Campus Middle School is getting big kudos for
    getting a perfect score on the math portion of his SATs.

    TaeHun Kim scored an 800 on the math portion of the SAT, which he took in
    January at Cherry Creek High School.

    "Few high school students achieve a perfect SAT score, but Tae's
    accomplishing that feat as a sixth-grader is rare indeed. Testing is not
    completed for 2005-2006; however, last year, no sixth or seventh grade
    student in the seven western states served by the Rocky Mountain Talent
    Search scored 800. An average score for the talented sixth-graders eligible
    to take the SAT was 452," said Cherry Creek Schools spokeswoman Tustin
    Amole. "Last year, Tae took the PLUS test and achieved the highest math,
    verbal, and composite scores in the region."

    Kim is currently in an eighth grade honors geometry class at Campus Middle

    "Tae amazes me with his incredible mathematical mind. He typically sees
    several ways to solve problems. I'm sure we will continue to see great
    things from him in the years to come," said Kim's geometry teacher Tim

    Kim is also a member of the school's Mathcounts team, but his interests
    extend beyond math, school officials said.

    "He enjoys video games, origami, chess, and Anime and reads with the same
    passion he brings to his math studies," Amole said.
  14. John  Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Why do you have such contempt for ordinary people and their beliefs?
    Are Canadians much different? Do you have similar contempt for
    Buddhists and Intuits and everybody else with spiritual beliefs?

    I don't believe much of that stuff, but I sure don't feel superior,
    much less mocking, to those that do. Actually, I rather envy them
    having something bigger than themselves that they can believe in.

    Well, what do you believe in? Cartoon animation?
    I got an 800 on my math SAT (but only 720 on the verbal) but that was
    before they dumbed it down. Taking multiple-choice tests like this is
    a peculiar talent.

  15. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    Since 1990..

    Bertram N. Brockhouse, Physics, 1994
    Rudolph Marcus*, Chemistry, 1992
    Michael Smith, United Kingdom, Chemistry, 1993
    Richard E. Taylor, Physics, 1990

  16. What the hell is wrong with YOU? Why are you so threatened by even the
    slightest criticism, but feel perfectly OK criticizing every other country
    on earth, not to mention bombing the shit out of many at various times?
    That's the sign of a very immature people. What next? You'll copy the
    Germans and declare you are the master race?

    For a nation who noisily flaunts your principles in everyone else's face you
    sure don't like to stand up for them.
    Why is being delusional better than being rational? You may believe your
    asshole is the centre of the universe but don't expect me to worship it - or
    give it a tax deduction. I'd rather give a tax deduction to doughnut shops -
    they serve a useful purpose.
    I've seen animated cartoons. They exist.
  17. John  Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    For the record, I have never criticized every other country on earth
    (actually, very few of them, although I hear Tierra del Fuego is
    unpleasant most of the time) and I have never blown up anything bigger
    than an M80.
    You can't accuse 300 million people, who elect a new government every
    few years, of sustained hypocracy. Well, actually, you do.

  18. Of course, what you should have said is "I don't care about the original
    topic of this thread, I'll reply to make some commentary, and cross-post
    it to in addition to the original
    sci.electronics.components because I'm more interested in this off-topic
    stuff than in commenting in the original newsgroup about the original

    Sometims not saying anything is more effective than trying to chime into
    every thread.

  19. John  Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Half, shared with someone from another country.
    Now a US citizen, at Caltech.
    UK? Half, again shared with a non-Canadian.
    1/3, shared ditto; affiliated with Stanford University.

    I don't mean to bash Canada, a nice place with very nice people, but
    when a Canadian claims that the US is "part of the ongoing war on
    intelligence and knowledge" I get a little skeptical. This is the same
    guy who bashes Americans for being fat but won't say how much he

    Guess which country all those Nobels were shared with?

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