Store gives new life to spare parts

February 16, 2009 6:45:13 AM PST
The Bay Area is the world's technology capital and electronics play a major role in that. So it's only natural that many people have taken up electronics as a hobby. And for Hi-Fi fanatics, there's one South Bay store that can't be missed - because it carries just about everything.

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This is not your ordinary, modern-technology electronics store.

"I've had rocket motors in here before, I've had electron microscopes," said Bob Ellingson, owner of Halted (HSC Electronic Supply).

And there are also shelves full of cables, vacuum tubes for fixing old radios and TVs, boxes of thousands of carbon composition resistors.

"You can't really get anything like this anywhere else," said Guido Rodriguez, shopper.

Owner Bob Ellingson says Halted Specialties Company has been catering to do-it-yourself electronics enthusiasts for nearly half a century -- people like Eric Wasserman, a retired electronics engineer who's building a new set of radio transmitters.

"Amateur radio stuff that keeps me out of pool rooms and saloons," said Wasserman.

One of the store's original owners, Hal Elzig, started it in the early 60s by gathering surplus parts from Lockheed Martin and then selling them. Even today, much of the products are castoffs. The variety of products can range from an old-school dynamic microphone. It's not exactly one we use at work today, but it still works, and then they've got this electron source, or filament, that helps build an electron microscope.

Talking about scopes, here's an old receipt for one sold in 1969 to a then-unknown Steve Jobs. As the story goes - the founder of halted turned down an offer to invest in what would become the consumer electronics and software giant -- Apple.

"He told them bring me your surplus products, I'll buy that, but, he didn't want to just turn over money and get a piece of paper in return, so," Ellingson.

'But lo and behold it became Apple Computer," said ABC7's Teresa Garcia.

"That's right," said Ellingson.

Today though, Ellingson says these cluttered shelves may be one of the last bastions of Silicon Valley history -- since more and more companies have moved their manufacturing to cheaper locations overseas, and many now offer their inventory on the internet. There's less local surplus product to buy and sell. But with the ambition to keep tinkering in the electronics world - Halted hopes to stay put.

"This is what we do. It's what we know how to do. I hope it's still a viable model for a business in the future," said Ellingson.

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