To commemorate (or at least reference) the subject I’m talking about (the DAK Catalog), I’m going to write in the style of the catalog itself.
YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME
I often get shipments of old magazines, catalogs, flyers and the like from people giving up collections they no longer want to care for but don’t want to just throw out. They come in old boxes, worn with the dust of basements and attics and often bearing striking themes: Commodore computing, hobbyist electronics, a predisiposition for Nintendo. But the latest huge box to arrive had a very old memory show up in it.
This was none other than a Summer 1988 DAK Catalog, in worn condition but still a complete collection of everything that made DAK such a strong memory for me. A catalog, you say? A catalog that caused a strong memory? What kind of catalog could that possibly be?
PLASTIC DREAMS AND PROMISES
The DAK catalog, created by Drew A. Kaplan (the DAK the company got the name from) was in the business of selling consumer electronic items, which are the companion pieces to the computer history I often focus on; when your item must shave a face or duplicate an audio cassette, the approach, style and presentation are slightly different, more simplistic, but a lot of the same urges and ideas are there. Students trying to understand Home Computers of the 1970s and 1980s would do well to look at how items were being sold back then.
A CROWDED FIELD
Make no mistake, the DAK catalog wasn’t the only game in town – I made it a point of carefully scanning in the 1983 Shelburne Holiday Catalog for the use of later academics and gawkers, all intent on trying to understand our past generations fascination with what appears to be, to the modern eye, crap. But these other catalogs paled in comparison to the DAK catalog in one way: hard core selling technique.
It will always be the DAK catalog that introduced me to the “Sub-woofer”, a speaker intended to blow bass waves directly into the floor. Allow me to have you admire, anew, the wonder of the advertisement for the 15″ Subwoofer:
The language is exquisite, and the presentation is superb. I’ve been told that Kaplan is using techniques from various correspondence courses on selling, and that his performance as a student of these courses is not up to snuff, but I defy someone reading this not to see where it would gain the interest of the next-newest-thing-seeking technophile.
“Oh, just wait ’til you experience the breathtaking sonic splendor of an orchestral chord or a pipe organ that’s unleashed by this subwoofer.”
UNLEASHING THE COMPUTER FLOODGATES
I did have a few of these advertisements, mostly appearing in electronics or science magazines, and an occasional mailing. One of them, called Astounding Writing, is in the digitize.textfiles.com collection.Â Â But it definitely brightens my day to have a complete, whole catalog from 20 years ago to eventually scan in completely.
Before I put it on the to-do pile, I simply couldn’t resist adding these two pages to the mix: a 1200 baud modem, promoted as a gateway to Â untold amounts of information and amazing opportunities. And for only $69! Prices slashed!
What I like about these are that he has to ramp up people into the world of bulletin board systems, the way they work, and why you want this ugly little thing. I think he does a very good job of it. While the stuff he sold was of variant quality in some cases, DAK was generally pretty upfront about what you were getting. As a result, he warns you that you’ll have to pay for some services online, and that what you’re getting are discard modems sold from discontinued properties (although they’re made in the same factory as continued quantities).
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE
Just kidding. That’s it.
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