I find it necessary to clear up some misconceptions and outright lies that
have been posted here about me, and to respond to some of the attacks on
my personal character. This will naturally be unnecessarily wordy, so if
you don't have the stomach for it then just move on now.
First of all, I'm sorry that so many people seem to have taken my message
as a personal assault. In re-reading the message, it seems the primary
reason some people got upset is because I expressed my speech freely, and
I also expressed some rather unflattering truths. My tone was angry, yes,
but my anger was directed at eBay primarily (because I hate them), and
secondarily at the same old useless bitching about eBay that seems to
never end here. I think it's pretty clear that I was looking for
constructive feedback and/or criticism. Well, unfortunately I got mostly
criticism, and little constructive feedback (I do appreciate the replies
from Jules and Curt). Since I did not single out any
individual, I can
only imagine that those that took personal offense may well have
Since many people seemed to have missed the point, it is this: many people
just like to bitch and gripe for the sake of bitching and griping, and
because it's easier than actually going out and changing what you don't
like. This is what Patrick and I did in building the Vintage Computer
Marketplace. We did this primarily to create a nice alternative to eBay
for the trading of vintage computers. It was designed and built
specifically with the computer collector in mind. It was our hope that
the site would be embraced and utilized by the community, eventually
becoming a thriving trading site, and ideally becoming commercially viable
to make the effort worthwhile. I am fully prepared to admit that the
promotion of the site can be greatly improved, but there's only so many
times I can mention it on the list (which I used to do regularly when I
was actively subscribed) and there aren't many other ways to promote it.
I did hear one good suggestion actually (from Curt in private e-mail),
which is to promote it on mainstream sites like craigslist, etc. I like
ideas like that.
Now, on to the personal assaults (you know I can't let them pass without a
I was taught it was extremely bad Netiquette to ask
for help (or
physical items) on a list (or newsgroup) that you did not also
contribute to, and in particular on a list that you didn't subscribe to.
Somenbody helps you, you repay the community by helping somebody else.
Seems reasonable to me.
Tony, before I unsubscribed, I had been continuously subscribed to the
list (with the exception of a brief stint after the first VCF when I
decided I needed a break) since the list began in 1997. I was one of the
charter members. In the time I was subscribed, I contributed hundreds of
thousands of words, most of which I (and I'm sure many others) would
consider "useful". I helped countless people with questions, both on and
off list (and continue to do so). If you can't recall the thousands of
messages that I contributed here in your presence then please have your
head checked. In short, I think I've earned the right to continue to both
contribute and draw from a mailing list that I helped to build, regardless
of your petty concepts of "netiquette".
I don't feel it should be necessary to toot my own horn, but I can count
the number of people to whom I've provided free hardware, software,
manuals, etc., often covering shipping costs as well, in the dozens. I'm
not going to bother going into the promotion I've given and attention I've
attracted for the hobby (for better or worse), without which we might've
still just been a small throng of nerds playing with obsolete computers.
I've been out on the front pushing this hobby forward for ten years now,
something one can't do from the comfort of their parents' basement.
You might also recall the many times I privately responded to your regular
public laments about not being able to find a job by trying to encourage
you to move out to the US (this was during the dot.com
boom) where your
considerable talents would've been in high demand (you always found some
excuse to stay within your comfortable little bubble).
For that reason, I ignore any messages from Sellam
Well, as long as we're being petty, I tuned out your incessant (and often
off-topic) jabbering long before I unsubscribed.
No, bitterness would've been me taking down the VCM right after I posted
my rant. I'm not bitter at all. Quite the contrary, I'm proud that I
actually put in the effort and succeeded in creating venues and tools to
let collectors express their appreciation of vintage computers and
facilitate their interest in the hobby. I would like to see more people
take advantage of those tools, and not just keep re-hashing the same old
tired gripes about eBay.
Look, eBay is always going to act in the interest of their sellers and
that's it. Like I said, they don't give a shit about the buyers as long
as they are buying, because their money goes to the sellers, and a cut of
that goes to eBay. That's their business model. It's a great business
model. I wish I could have 1% of 1% of eBay's business. Whatever, my
point, again, is that the complainers are never going to get the
satisfaction out of eBay that they desire, because the complainers are
mostly buyers, and buyers on eBay are just so many cattle grazing at the
I wasn't content with just venting. I had a vision and I implemented it.
Patrick and I built and deployed a free alternative to eBay that caters
specifically to this community; buyer and seller; hobbyists. But the last
step in that project is one that has to be taken by the community: we
can't also be expected to fill the Marketplace with stuff too. If enough
people turned their bitching into action and resolved to use the VCM on at
least, let's say, a quarter of their transactions rather than eBay then
the site might eventually grow to the point where critical mass would be
reached. The last step has to be taken by the community. If the
community is so truly fed up with eBay, why aren't they using the VCM?
Oh, because they're still using eBay.
I fully understand that eBay has the most eyeballs and therefore the most
stuff, and also gets you the most money for your stuff. So if it's more
important for you to get top dollar for your stuff then great, eBay is a
natural choice. But it's also possible to do very well on the VCM, with a
trading partner that you know appreciates this stuff as much as you do and
will treat it with the proper care and reverence when packing and shipping
it. That $1,200 IMSAI 8080 was a good deal for the buyer (relative to
what one might expect to pay on eBay) and it was still a pretty good deal
for the seller (plus he didn't have to pay listing fees or commissions;
that was good for around 40 bucks). But again, as critical mass is
finally reached, with lots of eyeballs at the VCM (thanks to the efforts
of the community), the prices at the VCM would start to rise as
competition increases. Sellers would be getting good money, buyers would
be getting good selection. It's an obvious win-win for the community,
something that the community could have taken credit for helping to
create. But the community ignored it and just continued to suffer eBay.
Finally, the reason eBay nets you top dollar is because of the tricks
eBay pulls, like the very one that started this whole brouhaha rolling.
eBay's system works in favor of the seller, and in doing so it encourages
artificial price inflation. To deny this is folly: it is in eBay's
interest to push prices up because that means more commissions for them.
I guarantee you that if eBay didn't become the premier place for buying
and selling vintage computers (or vintage anything) we wouldn't be talking
about $2,000 Altairs and IMSAI's (I still insist those values are
inflated, though not as much as they used to be). That's an argument I
don't want to get into yet again. I refer you to the CC archives where
many (IMHO well-laid) arguments of mine can be found.
So if eBay is supplanted as the premier trading place for vintage
computers by a venue that has a much more equitable trading mechanism
between buyer and seller (i.e. the VCM) prices might naturally deflate.
Is this undesirable? Or perhaps this is desirable?
A rather naive perspective, I think. Aside from
interest he may have in classic computers, he's also in it for the money
and apparently wants to generate enough traffic for VCM to generate
revenue and potentially sell it for some ridiculous (IPO) amount.
and Teo Zenios:
Sellam seems to post on the list when he is looking
for something to
resell and make some money, I seem to recall he got pissed when I
referred to him as a dealer. If Sellam expects the people here to do all
his advertising and build up users for him so HE can someday cash out he
is dumber then I thought.
This is patently ridiculous.
First, I'll address your ignorance. I have a 4,500 square foot warehouse
filled with around 2,000 computers going back to the 1950s, thousands of
peripherals of all kinds, thousands of software packages, thousands of
books, tens of thousands of magazines, plus all manner of computer related
ephemera and things. This warehouse currently costs me $3,646.20 a month
to lease. As you might imagine, I also have other costs, such as
insurance, utilities, wages, etc. In short, it costs me a lot of money to
store all this stuff.
Now, if I was in this for the money, why the hell would I be stupid enough
to incur thousands of dollars of expenses every month to store all this
stuff for the past 10+ years of my life? Why did I pour all my money into
acquiring old computers rather than landscaping my backyard, which to this
day I'm embarrased to admit is still a field of weeds?
If I was someone only in it for the money, my warehouse would be a rented
storage shed and I would've been doing a brisk trade out of it. And if I
were so inclined, I'd be driving a Lamborghini by now.
But I don't. And do you want to know why? I will tell you. It is the
same reason I started the Vintage Computer Festival 10 years ago and have
been doing it year after year ever since, in fact growing it to multiple
events around the world, with a wash (in terms of cash) to show for it
(and that's only if you count expenses and don't take my time into
account). It is the same reason I used to charter a bus at my expense at
the VCF so that people could take a tour of the nascent Computer Museum
History Center (now the Computer History Museum) while they were in town
for the VCF and raise its exposure. It's the same reason I actively
contributed to this list for nearly nine years, never deleting a single
message without first reading it. I do this because I have a passion for
vintage computing and a love of computer history. It is what I have done
since I was a teenager. It is my life's work. This is why I do it.
So hopefully you'll understand why I think your comments are incredibly
insulting and demeaning, bordering on libelous, and why I now have nothing
but contempt for both of you for ascribing such a shallow motivation to my
life's work, especially Teo, who is reading nothing new here. You've
questioned my integrity before and I explained to you quite adequately
that I am not someone who merely buys low and sells high. If you do this
again then you and I will tangle, but in a serious fashion.
As for how I am able to afford to keep all this material preserved while
earning a living, it's no secret. I've explained it before, and every
e-mail message I send out has a link to my business' website which
explains my work.
Regarding those periodic requests I post to the list? Those are what I
call bounties. They are opportunities for hobbyists to make a little
money in their hobby, sometimes a lot of money. Among other things, I do
consulting for law firms in the field of patent litigation. I perform
research to uncover prior art, and then I go out and try to acquire that
prior art for my client (the law firm). Am I doing well by it? You bet.
And as the many people who've successfully responded to one of my bounties
can attest, it can be quite lucrative for them as well. If I was just
using the list for my sole personal gain then yeah, I can see how that
would be annoying. However, and here I will unashamedly toot my own horn,
I'm actually spreading the wealth. Now tell me, what's wrong with that?
Now, as for selling computers for profit, I do this very, very rarely.
Most of what I provide to my law clients are items on temporary loan from
my (or someone else's) collection. In the rare event when I do sell, I
only consider profit motives when selling to businesses because I won't
feel guilty about adding a considerable mark up. With individuals (i.e.
fellow collectors) my primary motivation is doing a fair trade. In many
cases I just give stuff away to other collectors for the prospect of a
future favor returned (it's a concept I learned from a good friend called
By the way, the most exotic thing I ever sold from my own collection, an
IMSAI 8080 for $3,500 on eBay, was to fund VCF 3.0. The next most exotic
thing was an Apple //e.
But enough of the self-adulation. I'll be honest and admit that I am
exploiting my hobby, which I've managed to make into my work, for money,
and as much as I can. It's the only way I can afford to maintain and grow
this wonderful archive that I've built. So I do it shamelessly.
I sent email to Jay asking that Sellam be banned from
Wow, Al. If that's how you treat your friends, I'd hate to know what you
do to your enemies. Thanks, I'll remember this.
Other people posted nasty comments about me, but I'm not responding to you
because I consider you irrelevant. I should add that this does not apply
to Jay, with whom I am having an off-list conversation.
I would like to sincerely thank those that came to my defense. I count
all of them as friends.
Finally, to respond to Jay's follow-up to my initial posting, nowhere did
I insult either Jay or the list, but rather I paraphrased what Patrick
Rigney related to me when he decided to leave the list and the computer
collecting community altogether. Go back and read my original posting.
This thread is representative of the aspects of this community on which
Patrick's disgust was rightly founded.
Lastly, I am not going to apologize for any particular language that I
choose to use. I've addressed this at length before and don't find a need
to re-visit the argument, suffice it to say that I believe people who find
any kind of words "dirty" because of their sexual connotations suffer from
arrested development and need to mature. I'm stating my opinion. If you
can't handle it that's your problem.
Sellam Ismail Vintage Computer Festival
International Man of Intrigue and Danger http://www.vintage.org
[ Old computing resources for business || Buy/Sell/Trade Vintage Computers ]
[ and academia at www.VintageTech.com
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