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Work Stories - Free Stuff


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It seems like one of the perks of working for large companies, is that regularly hardware is just cleaned out.  5S is a process that I've seen a couple of companies follow.  One of the steps basically means that old junk needs to get tagged, and if no one claims it after so long, then it should be disposed of since it is taking up valuable space.  As a result I've been at companies that just want stuff gone and don't care how.  This got me wondering, what is some of the best loot you've gotten from work for free?  Here are some of my favorites.

  • Solidering hardware (Irons, solider, solider suckers)
  • PSUs (20V, 4A, analog controls)
  • Frequency generator (analog controls)
  • Engine hoist (brand new)
  • Laptops (newest one I got was a 10th gen I5)
  • Cell phones (newest one I got was a Samsung S7)
  • Rack mount routers
  • Rack mount PCs
  • PC components (fans, power supplies, cases)
  • Old NI Hardware (USB hardware, old FPGA card)
  • Monitors and TVs
  • Cables (USB, Power, Monitor)
  • Hard drives (often on the smaller side, largest was 1TB)
  • GPUs (very old ones)
  • Keyboards and mice
  • Voltage adapters (as if I needed more)

That last one was fun.  We bought 10 USB serializes that had 8 RS-232 on each.  Well each of our 10 devices came with a voltage adapter for the US.  But it also came with 4 other voltage adapters for other countries hard mounted.  They all accepted 110-220VAC at 50/60hz but had the wrong plug for US.  So I took all 40 extra for other small projects.

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Well some of it I gave away for favors.  I had no use for the engine hoist but I had a friend of mine that was thrilled to have it, and in returned helped rescue me with a tow when I was stranded.  A good amount of it is in my office at the moment.  I saw overhead office lights go to people putting them in their garage.  And there was some larger desk furniture and electronic benches I said no to because I didn't have the space.

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1 hour ago, jacobson said:

Most of the hardware I would be able to take home is old enough that I don't really want it 

Yeah most of the tech I got was old, with a few exceptions.  The FPGA card I have was last supported in LabVIEW 2016.  So not sure what I'll be doing with it.  I mean I can program it and have it just do its thing, but can't really connect to any LabVIEW project.  PSU and frequency generator is probably from the 80s, but works fine for hobby stuff.  The GPUs had SLI and could be combined, but even combined had less graphical capability than most integrated graphics do today.  Some of the stuff needed to be fixed.  I had to rewire a mouse, and I had to fix the feet on some office chairs.

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Not everything was "free", but I did get a good deal on some things.

- Expensive set of industrial environment cooling fans used in destructive environmental testing of a DoD product that still worked perfectly fine after testing was completed.  Was able to get permission to take them home.  They ended up as attic fans in my old house.
- Expensive soldering iron for $1 at a company auction.
- May possibly be getting a high horsepower server that we built for our department that was in a recent flood that will be scrapped.  Only the bottom of the server tower was in the water, so the power supply would be the only thing that needs replaced.  Nothing else except one of the HDs was submerged. 
- $200 office chair from company auction for $10.

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Not entirely related, but I got in big trouble in my first real engineering job. The company was moving premises and we all helped pack up. I had a cupboard next to my desk filled with all these weird old cables which I happily threw out as I did not recognise any of them and just assumed they were junk. Turns out we needed them to support some old telecomms equipment from the days when everyone seemed to have their own custom cables!

Cannot recall how the story ended, I think somebody did some dumpster diving and managed to find the bag! I kept my job 🙂

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Experienced 5S purges at a large aerospace company recently. 

  • Truckloads of semiconductor and component stock
  • Many dozens of Monitors, Xeon Workstations
  • Dozens of Huge HP programmable PS's, Freq. Synths, Logic Analyzers
  • Many CRT based LeCroy Scopes, Older Tek analog scopes (I took one of those!), Spectrum Analyzers
  • NI GPIB, Serial, M Series, USRP's
  • Boat loads of stainless steel fasteners, titanium metal stock
  • DEC VAX and PDP11 computer peripherals (unfortunately I was too late to get the PDP 11/70 CPU that was trashed.)
  • Many nice calipers, micrometers, Bausch Stereo Microscopes (I took several home)
  • Hundreds of wire cutters, needle nose pliers, soldering stations, misc tools
  • Miles of silver coated, teflon hookup wire.

I was friendly with a maintenance guy so got early Dibbs on stuff.  Once the word got out, the other Engineers converged like vultures so management decided to hide it from sight.  Now and then my inside man would unlock the store room at night and let me rummage through the stuff :)

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Pretty much nothing. Every once in a while some used monitors you can get for a fair price. And you can bid for old laptops with hard-drive removed.

I took 1-2 too folders too, I'm worried that we didn't made a delivery note about them...

I guess every junk the company (which employs 500+ white collars, 2000+ blue collars) makes is deliberately placed on top of coral-reefs and into the noses of whales by the management.

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Oh yeah I forgot about miles of wire.  I've (finally) started saying no to it.  Most would be some weird exotic thing someone thought we needed.  They'd buy a ton of it, use it once, then it would sit on the wire rack for years taking up space.  People would quit, or get promoted, programs moved on, and then someone tries to clean the lab and can't figure out why we would ever have it.  I've got some CAT-5 and CAT-5E spools, since IT has only uses CAT-6A now.

13 hours ago, Lipko said:

I guess every junk the company makes is deliberately placed on top of coral-reefs and into the noses of whales by the management.

I've been very critical of IT here for making bad decisions, then implementing them in the worst way.  But I had to send out personal "thank you" messages to the IT team, and management involved in the last purge.  They sent out an email telling people where it would be, and what hours they would be there to help people.  They dedicated an IT guy for 6 hours a day for 3 days just to take down asset tags of things people wanted, and to help with hard drive removal.  Adding to my electronics pile at home is fine, but I specifically called out the reduction in e-waste for their efforts, especially since we have a land fill very close buy that it would be thrown into.

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