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March 16, 2009
The Equipment Graveyard
The comment that showed up recently about unearthing an "original Cable and Wireless dephilostagenator" in a lab reminded me of the huge lab moving job I was in on some years ago. We were packing up the entire company's research site and moving it to another spot in New Jersey (Bloomfield to Kenilworth), and this was supposedly the biggest moving job in the US that year. I do know that the Garden State Parkway was used for the parade of 18-wheel trucks at like 3 AM several times, by special arrangement with the state. (You normally can't take trucks on the thing; that's for the Jersey Turnpike, which doesn't go anywhere real close to Kenilworth).
At any rate, as we started clearing things out, there were several layers of equipment. First were the things that we'd either ordered or had used fairly recently - fine. Behind that, or in the less traveled cabinets, were things that we recognized, but (in many cases) didn't even know that we had. Finally, we began to unearth things that we hardly even knew the names of. I remember finding a dropping mercury electrode apparatus down our way; it's still the only one I've ever seen. It had that solid, black-enameled 1952 look to it, with the name of the company written in silver script lettering on the side, "Dyno-Electromat" or something of the sort. It reminded me somehow of those solid old electromechanical adding machines.
That one was only going to find a home in a museum or in a hazardous waste collection dumpster, and you can guess which alternative won out. But when a site shuts down or moves, there are generally large piles of perfectly usable equipment left sitting around, and it finds its way out into the market one way or another. Courtesy of another commentator, here are some folks from Yale digging through stuff that I might have leaned up against at some point. . .
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