Compass Technical Services – We spent a year there one month!


Compass Technical's armory stuffed collection - before the Grinnell tornado hit

Compass Technical’s armory stuffed collection – before the Grinnell tornado hit

September 11, 2001 was a date no American will ever forget. I personally embarked on a treasure hunt just a month after the disaster and the destination was Paterson, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from NYC and the smoldering Twin Towers. It was a shocking environment relative to my home turf, Omaha, Nebraska. I made a deal to buy Compass Technical Services, a surplus business and small manufacturer of military equipment. The volume of a National Guard Armory, wall to wall, 2.5 floors. Loading started late October and we departed when my packing team mutinied on Thanksgiving Day. We had packed 29 semi-trucks over the month. One a day. Each maxed out to about 40,000 pounds. So the story goes.



Teaching this old dog new tricks – Who needs social media?

I have been drug into the 21st century kicking and screaming. We always put out a decent catalog through the years. That is as far as small surplus houses are concerned. I bought the very first Macintosh 128, then a Mac 512 followed by a Mac Plus and on and on. BTW, we have never sold a retired computer. Not worth much. Great start for a museum. For software, Pager Maker was mastered and soon replaced the paste up catalog pages. If you’re not familiar with what paste up is, we literally clipped words and sentences out of catalogs, along with low res photos, pasted them all on an oversize page and added self adhesive black border lines. Then the printer would photograph the page and reduce it. Long about 1997 our last 400-page printed catalog fell to the Internet and our first website. My advertising department grew from one man to a two horse shop with a full time webmaster. That model more or less propelled me into the second decade of the new millennium.

Then a brick wall I did smack. The wheels fell off. We had not followed the rules. The website schematic that had proven fruitful for so many years all of a sudden took ninety ninth fiddle to more sophisticated sites and overnight our ranking on the average search slid to frightful depths down the search results. SEO. I thought that was like a Senior Executive Officer. Me of course. By the time I figured out it meant Search Engine Optimization, I was the last donkey out of the barn. Businesses exist whose sole purpose is to make web pages occur higher in the search. I know of several great companies that do just that in our Mastercraft Building. Perhaps I should have used one of them. Nah. That would be too easy. We can do all that ourselves. Eventually.

We are nearly finished with a full revamp and making our website more social media friendly and hope to be able to get back to selling parts like we have for 39 years. I will take a moment or two, from time to time, to write in this blog, and will try and share experiences that may be interesting to others. Many of us here at Surplus Sales will contribute. We have a collective 150 years in experiences to write about. Our intention is that new customers as well as those that have been around for the long haul might learn something about us that they didn’t know.











Communication Speed in my 57 years


When I was a teen I landed my first amateur radio ticket. WD0FDE. My FCC license to transmit on specific frequencies. The modes I used were phone / talking, CW / Morse code and teletype. Typical transmit speed was about 66 words per minute on the teletype and 10 wpm on the code key. In the 80’s I dabbled in packet radio which operated around 1200 bits per second. Then along came the Internet and ham communications took the back seat to a whole new world. I haven’t had a decent station set up since about 1981. Now I have 10 acres, component 1. Next I need personal time. Different story.

Trying to keep it simple and not confuse bits and bytes, my dial up modem for the Mac was 56k. That gave way to DSL at around 300k. As long as our service provider didn’t bottleneck in high traffic times, this speed was adequate for many years. New software, websites with more images and streaming video kept pushing me to acquire faster Internet speed. Today, in our Mastercraft Building, a building in Omaha that has about 90 suites for rent to entrepreneurs and creatives of all stripes, we have a program in place whereby a local service provider guarantees 1 gig bandwidth up and down speed to each a every tenant in the building for the price of dsl. Why I mention this here is because it’s a topic on everyone’s mind. Almost everyone interfaces with a computer, or wifi, every day. The speed of that connection can be the difference of an instant transfer where the connection was invisible, as in the 1G service, or a foot tapping bottle necked connection that takes forever.

The raw amount of data transferred in a typical minute of online surfing, when compared to my 66 WPM teletype, is staggering. The cost to my data transfer in 1975 was free, less the cost of my station. Today, in relative terms, what you get for your money, 1G (per second!) of bandwidth is almost free. It is nearly impossible to fill up a 1G fiber. Imagine being able to upload or download with no restriction in performance. Unfortunately, the rest of the Internet is not able to handle this speed, yet, so the bottleneck is there, it’s simply down the road.


6888 – A Pentode in Hiding

Guest Writer: Bill True, WA9 ASD



There are a number of tubes that appear to be ‘under the radar’ of tube equipment designers for no apparent reason. One such tube is the Sylvania 6888. Originally designed as a core driver in first generation vacuum tube computers, it is practical in several other applications.

Multiple versions of a one or two tube AM Broadcast Radio project might be responsible for bringing this tube back in demand. We found a half dozen worthy construction challenges on the Internet. The 6888 is used for an AM transmitter to feed a signal to antique table radios. Using modern input sources, we think there is an un-tapped potential as a low power audio application like a headphone amp or personal stereo as well. If availability or cost were deterrents in the past, we now have enough to go around. With over 10k in stock we offer a 1 each price of only $3.95 and it drops to $2.50 ea for a whole case of 100 at a time. See our tubes at


Let’s skip the paradoxical complication of a wireless connection and the questionable sound reproduction of antique radios and go right from source to speaker. No limitation of 5 Kc on the top end that AM stations are subject to. No misaligned IF section that misses the detector pass band. No risk of leaky filter condensers and torn paper speaker cones. Let’s just put a little gain and some impedance matching between the source and some good, wide-range headphones or speakers. Worst case; hide the good speaker in the antique radio.

While the 6888 is kind a power hog on the filament side it is definitely a pussycat on the plate side with moderate if not low voltages and current required. Because of this it shouldn’t need some exotic hand-wound high plate impedance transformer to match the load. A couple of thousand Ohms ought to do it.

As a voltage regulator, another great idea for this pentode, it should be nearly indestructible and will probably out-last the resistors in the circuit. It would have considerably more current capacity than a VR-150. We will be happy to post on this site any project using the 6888 and give credit to the author.