Summary of responses to Used/Refurb Sun Dealers Query

From: David Pirmann (
Date: Mon Nov 01 1993 - 02:27:10 CST

Hi there, netfolk,

A while back I posted:

> I am interested in knowing what, if any, Used/Refurbished Sun
> equipment dealers there are out there, and recommendations if you all
> have any. I know of Suncoast Workstations -- anyone dealt with them?
> They don't seem to answer questions via email.

This post is a summary of the replies I received. My thanks to all
that replied, especially Mike Hucka for forwarding posts from
comp.sys.sun.hardware that I had missed. These posts are included
verbatim below but may have been superceded by new versions.

David Pirmann

By far I received the most positive commentary about Minicomputer
Exchange and Marathon International (to be fair I did not receive any
strong negative commentary about any company). [Comments are keyed to
the sender's username, see list below.]

Minicomputer Exchange, Sunnyvale, CA (408) 733-4400
        "longest warranties on used systems (3 months). Aren't always
                the cheapest though" -- scott
        "would deal with them again" -- miker
        "not always the cheapest but everything worked and they stood
                behind what they sold. I never had a problem with
                them" -- dick
        "pretty good prices, 120 day warranty, they test it before
                they give it to you..." -- mrapple

Marathon International, Los Gatos, CA (800) 783-7354
        "Best price around" -- scott
        "prices are outstanding, delivery was great, price is right as
                well as the service" -- James_J_Hall
        "I had a very good experience with Marathon. I am a very
                cautious consumer, and don't give out recommendations
                lightly... I dealt with Jim and Julie Hall and found
                them to be knowledgeable, flexible, and easy to work
                with. Their prices matched the best I was able to find
                too, and they were up front about precisely what was
                included." -- mrmoose
        "Marathon had the 2nd best pricing for what I was looking for.
                They offered a 90 warranty, and I imagine they would
                install the OS version of your choice but
                unfortunately I didn't actually ask. John Wade spoke
                with me; again a very pleasant individual, who never
                pressured me and was willing to bargain and try all
                sorts of combinations to work something out with me.
                Marathon seems to have a good reputation on the net,
                and I had a good feeling about them. I was an inch
                away from buying their system, and they will be the
                first people I call the next time." -- hucka

Workstation Technologies
        "said they're Sun's remanufacturing division. The equipment
        they sell carries a 1 year warranty, they will install the OS
        version of your choice on the machine, include Sun
        right-to-use for the OS, and many parts in their refurbished
        Suns are actually new equipment (e.g. disk drives). I spoke
        with Bob Clark, and he was very pleasant and quite
        knowledgeable. Their prices are somewhat higher than those of
        Marathon and Suncoast, but it sounds like their quality is
        higher. Workstation Technologies left me with the best
        impression out of the places I spoke with on the phone. I'm
        shopping for a used SS1 or 1+ for home use, on a very meager
        budget, but if I could have afforded their prices I would have
        bought from them." -- hucka

Frontier Data Systems, Atlanta (404) 816-6350
        "happy with the equipment and prices I got, and they're
                pleasant people to deal with" -- jens

Computer Marketing International, 800-497-4264
        "good experience, will pass on sun warranty, received a
                Christmas card after purchase and followup calls. Good
                business practices on their part" -- sscott

Sun Valley Technical Repair (408)779-4115, Saeid Sadri.
        (no comments) -- mcarey

Bay State Computers, 617-623-3100 Jim Coleman
        "good guy to deal with, should be able to get you a good
        price" -- wbe

Apex Computers, 4500 150th Avenue NE, Redmond, WA 98052.
Fax: 206 883-4910, Tel: 206 867-1900
        "very reliable and very accomodating" -- raoul

Rave Computer Association
        "had good people. I spoke with Jeff Witulski; he too was very
        pleasant, and he tried very hard to come up with a combination
        that fit my budget. They also offered a 90 day warranty,
        installation of the OS version of your choice, and Sun
        right-to-use. They had the 3rd best price on an SS1 out of
        the outfits I called." -- hucka

Suncoast Workstations
          "had the best pricing on a low-end SS1, but there were some
                tradeoffs involved. I contacted them after exchanging
                email with one of their people. I hope I'm not unfair
                in my evaluation, but I just didn't get as good a
                feeling for them as for the other outfits, talking
                them to on the phone. Suncoast only offered a 30 day
                warranty, and they didn't include loading the OS on
                their machine -- for that they charged an extra
                $60-90. In fairness, if you know what you're doing,
                and you're just looking to buy bare hardware and can
                take care of installing your own OS (as many people
                can), then they may indeed offer a good deal." -- hucka
        "In my original post I mentioned that Suncoast did not respond
                to my previous emails; after that post I received mail
                from someone named Bill at Suncoast apologizing for
                having overlooked me and if I would mail back he would
                help me out. So I did, and never heard back from him!
                I'm not too impressed with Suncoast so far..." -- pirmann

Thanks to those that replied:

From: <>
From: Nick Sayer <>
From: (Johnny B.)
From: (Raoul-Sam Daruwala)
From: (Jens U. Quistgaard)
From: Robert Bonomi <>
From: (Stephen Scott)
From: (Scott McClure)
From: (Matt Carey)
From: (Mike Reetz)
From: Dick Montgomery <>
From: Winston Edmond <>


Relevant messages from comp.sys.sun.hardware:
From: (Reginald Beardsley)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sun.hardware
Subject: Re: Cheap Sparc's ?
Date: 12 Apr 1993 19:24:04 GMT
Organization: Mobil Exploration and Producing Services, Inc.
Message-ID: <1qcfkk$>

What's new:

regular (non 800) numbers for folks outside USA and email addresses

I have added some vendors of new systems (eg. SPARC clones) to the list.
I have not differentiated between new & used system vendors because
there is a fair bit of overlap. I also have not included companies
which purely sell parts. If anyone has any comments please let me know.

Obviously I cannot vouch for all these companies. Check with the BBB
if in doubt. Ask for references. Some of these are subsidiaries of
large multinational corporations. Others are a couple of guys with an
800 number. I will be adding to the list as time permits. If you
find errors or know of other companies please contact me by E-mail at:

--------------------- Buying A Workstation FAQ------------------------

Most of these companies are either leasing companies or equipment
brokers. They are an excellent source of used machines. Typically
they provide a 90 day warranty with a 5-10 day inspection period.

Some tips:

1) Know what you want to buy. Manufacturers model designations help
   a lot (eg. Sun 3/60 FC-4)

2) Call around. They only have what someone's returned, but they will
   often quote on anything. If they have a lot of units in a warehouse
   they'll be cheap.

3) Make sure you have your own technical support lined up. These guys
   typically sell to people who know what they are doing. They will
   probably not do much handholding. (ie. Make friends with someone
   who is already running what you want to buy.)

4) When you make a purchase, DO IT IN WRITING! This will save you
   much pain and suffering. If you order something verbally over the
   phone, and they get it wrong, you are at their mercy. You may well
   find that you are stuck with something you didn't want.

AT&T Capital 800-257-6083
Alpine Computer Sales 800-274-5876
Apex 800-654-8222 206-867-1900
Apogee Systems 800-367-1488
Bay State Computer Group 617-623-3100
Centurion Surplus 408-778-2001
CompuAdd 800-688-6380
Computer Connection of CNY 315-724-2209
Computer Marketing Int'l 800-497-4264
Concorde Group 800-225-7213
Datalease 714-632-6986
ELI Systems 800-447-1156
ERI 800-222-1050
ETC 800-899-3548
Equipment Remarketing 617-267-8600
FDS 404-816-6350
GE Rental/Leasing (Leasametric) 800-553-2255
Genstar Rentals 800-422-3300
Global Computer Sources 516-829-3774
Grumman System Support 800-922-1225
InterContinental Computers, Inc. 612-835-4555
Marathon International 800-783-7354 408-395-7354
Minicomputer Exchange 408-733-4400
Mostel 415-659-9700
Open Systems Computing 800-627-6607
Quality Computer Components 800-899-1888
RAVE Computer Association 800-966-7283 313-939-8230
Security Computer Sales 612-227-5683
Solar Systems 800-253-5764
Spectron 206-827-9317
Sun Valley Tech. Repair 408-224-6261
System Computing Corp. 404-872-6475
Sunar Systems 800-227-8627 408-982-0288
Super Workstation, Inc. 800-841-0036 408-436-8881
TDP Computer Systems 408-441-6211
Tatung 800-659-5902
Total Solutions 508-682-3454
Vernon Rentals & Leasing 212-490-8989
Uni Solution, Inc. 800-552-4864 713-552-0505
West Coast Computer Exchange 916-635-9340
Williams Electronics 800-794-4622
Workstation Exchange 508-650-4800
Workstation Technologies 800-882-0007
Worldwide Technology Exchange 404-353-8496
Wymbrot Trading 201-642-1246
Xpert Image, Inc. 713-558-6788

Repair and Parts

NCE Computer Group 800-446-6456
Pinnacle Data Systems 614-487-1150
RC Electronics 800-882-3475 714-375-3791


------------------------------------------------------------------------ Reginald H. Beardsley Contract Consultant/Programmer

Mobil Exploration and Production Technology

Office: (214)-851-8547 Home: (214)-306-3907

============================================================================= Newsgroups: comp.sys.sun.admin,comp.sys.sun.hardware From: robert@weitek.COM (Robert Plamondon) Subject: List of SPARC Cloners and Used Sun Resellers Message-ID: <1993Jun28.043838.18389@jetsun.weitek.COM> Organization: WEITEK Corporation, Sunnyvale CA Date: Mon, 28 Jun 93 04:38:38 GMT


Here's my first cut at a list of SPARC cloners and resellers of used Sun equipment. My goal here is to make it easier for people to find cost-effective SPARC equipment. My special interest is in upgrading SPARCstation 1 and 1+ machines, which can be done by replacing the motherboard with a SPARCstation 2 (or clone) motherboard. I recently was involved in upgrading three SPARCstation 1s this way, and posted my experiences to the net (send me e-mail if you missed it, and want a copy).

Like most people with SPARCstation 1 equipment, I knew of no cost-effective upgrade path. I also didn't have any easy way to acquire the money to do a more expensive upgrade: If I had, I wouldn't be stuck with SPARCstation 1s, would I? But the applications I ran (for example, Interleaf 5 under OpenWindows) were too CPU-intensive for SPARC 1 machines: I had a real need for more horsepower.

At the same time, my systems were old enough that I could easily get away with unusual upgrade practices. While normally we buy new Sun equipment and keep it under Sun hardware maintenence, NOBODY cares what I do with a SPARCstation 1. If I want to put a clone board in it, fine. If I want to take it out to the parking lot and back my truck over it, that's fine, too -- it's been fully depreciated, and has no value on our books. (I'd have to sweep up the pieces, though.) So I was free to explore alternatives.

Personally, I like clone boards. A lot of people like to buy used Sun SPARCstation 2 boards for their upgrades, rather than clone boards, but used Sun boards cost a lot more. In fact, the clone boards were enough cheaper than the Sun boards that I could afford to upgrade all my systems AND buy a spare motherboard, just in case!

I've listed both cloners and resellers of used Sun equipment, so if you prefer Sun boards, you can find them.

The sources for this list are:

1. The "SPARCward, Ho!" article in the April, 1993 issue of SunExpert. 2. A list kindly sent to me by Ajay Shah. 3. Ads in recent Sun and UNIX magazines.

I'm not listing a lot of detail here, because I don't know much about most of the vendors. I've spoken with several vendors on the phone, and have been universally impressed by the courtesy and depth of knowledge of their technical contacts and marketers (but I can't vouch for their telemarketers: I never talked to them, as chance would have it.)

Feel free to send me additions or corrections to my list.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR After talking to a few of these companies on the phone, it seems that they all offer products in a wide range of variations, and that the biggest barrier to your success is figuring out exactly what you'd like. For instance, you can do SPARCstation 1 upgrades that involve a trade-in of your old SPARCstation 1 motherboard, and all your old DRAM. The nice thing about this kind of deal is that you just buy a new motherboard with all the DRAM pre-installed, and you trade in your old DRAM (which is likely too slow for a SPARC 2) along with your old motherboard. This avoids SIMM compatibility headaches. (I don't know what kind of a deal you get for old 100ns SIMMs, because I didn't know that people offered trade-ins when I placed my first order. Now our system administrator has some SPARCstation 1 motherboards and SIMMs he'll never find a use for.)

I recommend that your order be very specific, and in writing, to avoid confusion. We ordered some products from one company, and there was a miscommunication of some kind, and we got the wrong stuff. I wasn't the one making the phone calls, but it seems that the people booking the orders and the people who knew something about the product weren't talking. Under these circumstances, it's best to cough up a self-explanatory piece of paper.

For example, if I were filling out a purchase order for another SPARCstation 1 upgrade kit, I'd word it as, "SPARCstation 1 upgrade kit, including a new SPARCstation 2 compatible motherboard with socketed IU, mounting screws, extended floppy disk power cable, installation instructions, motherboard reference manual, one-year overnight replacement warrantee, 48 MB DRAM installed. Price: $WWWW. $XXX trade-in will be given on SPARCstation 1 motherboard with YY MB DRAM, if delivered to you within 14 days after arrival of upgrade kit. Upgrade kit to be delivered by ZZZ. Terms: net 30 days." Every single item I listed there is important, and should be spelled out.


I'm too new to the clone game to have seen much of a cross-section of the products out there, or to have talked to all the cloners. Marathon, though, deserves special mention: My first upgrade gave me a great deal of trouble (a combination of a disk drive problem and my own ignorance). Jim Hall of Marathon was extremely helpful, and came out and helped me bang on the system until it worked. The board I got from him, an Aries Parrot, also deserves mention for its easy-to-use SIMM sockets and overall spiffiness. While virtually all the clone manufacturers make "100% Sun-compatible" SPARCstation II boards, some have convenience features, such as good sockets (or any socket at all on the processor), that others lack.

Also deserving of mention is Pinnacle, which has me thinking there is no stone they have left unturned. They do both clone manufacturing and Sun equipment servicing, and have several unusual upgrade products, such as a speed upgrade for the ELC to boost it to 40 MHz, and (if I understand this correctly), an IPX clone motherboard for use in IPC-to-IPX upgrades.


Apogee Systems, Inc., 800-367-1488, 1815 S. Gadsden St. Tallahassee FL 32301

Aries Research, Inc., 46791 Fremont Blvd, Fremont CA 94538 Comments: I like their Parrot II board, which has the lever-action SIMM sockets.

Axil Workstations (Hundai), 166 Baypointe Pkwy, San Jose CA 95134

CAD National (Axil vendor), 408-554-0636

CompuAdd Computer Corp, 12303 Technology Blvd, Austin TX 78758

Computer Connection of CNY Inc., 315-724-2209

Concorde Group (Reseller) 800-370-0099 (East), 800-225-7213 (West). Comments: Sells clone and refurbished Sun equipment.

ELI Systems, 139 Hampshire St, Cambridge MA 02139, 800-447-1156, 617-547-1113 Comments: sells refurbished Sun equipment.

Integrix, Inc., 1200 Lawrence Dr. #150, Newbury Park CA 91320, 805-375-1055 Comments: Advertises SPARCstation 1/1+ upgrades. Makes a 50 MHz SPARC II+.

Marathon, 16795 Lark Ave., Ste 107, Los Gatos CA 95030. 800-783-7354 408-395-7354 Comments: Sell clones and remanufactured (used) Sun equipment.

Marner International, Inc., 1617 93rd Ln NE, Blaine MN 55449, 612-780-1133

Minicomputer Exchange. 408-733-4400. Comments: Sells used systems and parts, including motherboards.

Mobius Computer Corp, 5627 Stoneridge Dr, Bldg 312, Pleasanton CA 94588

Open Concepts International, Inc., #107 2841-109 St, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada TGJ-GB7

Opus Systems, 3000 Coronado Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95054, 408-562-9340 email: --or-- uunet!opusys!johnc

Pinnacle Data Systems, 1350 W. Fifth Ave. Columbus OH 43212, 614-487-1150 Comments: Already has a line of upgades for "non-upgradeable" systems such as the ELC. Clone manufacturer. Also does depot service on all Sun products.

Rave Computer Association, 36960 Metro Ct., Sterling Heights MI 48312 313-939-8230. Comments: Sells remanufactured (used) Sun equipment w/Sun warrantee.

Sidus Systems, Inc. 25 Minthorn Ct., Thornhill Ontario, Canada L3T-7N5

Solid Computer Corp., 1450 Oakbrook Dr. #300, Norcross GA 30093

Stealth Computer Systems, 1980 Cumulus Ct, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

Sunar Systems, 3350 Scott Blvd, Ste 1901, Santa Clara CA 95054, 408-892-0288 800-22-SUNAR, email: Comments: advertises SPARCstation 1/1+ upgrades. Makes a 50 MHz SPARC II+.

Super Workstation, 2190 Paragon Dr., San Jose CA 95131, 800-841-0036 Comments: advertises SPARCstation 1/1+ upgrades. Makes a 50 MHz SPARC II+.

System Computing Corp, 430 10th St, S-109, Atlanta GA 30318, 404-872-6475 Comments: advertises SPARCstation 1/1+ upgrades (DTK).

Tatung, 2060 Ringwood Ave., San Jose CA 95134

Uni Solution, Inc. 5005 Riverway, Houston TX 77056, 800-552-4UNI Comments: advertises SPARCstation 1/1+ upgrades.

Workstation Technologies. 8A Industrial Way, Salem NH 03079. 603-890-6700 Comments: Sells remanufactured (used) Sun equipment with Sun warrantee.

Xpert Image, Inc., 10631 Harwin Rd. #606, Houston TX 77036, 713-272-7038

-- Robert Plamondon * WEITEK Corporation * Home of SPARC Power uP (TM) 80 MHz clock-doubled SPARC processor upgrade for the SPARCstation 2 or IPX FAX-back info line: (800) 827-8708 or (408) 522-7525 Email info request: cpu-upgrade@weitek.COM * To order: (408) 738-8400

============================================================================= -- David Pirmann UNIX Support Lehman Brothers

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