RubyFringe Guide: Active Surplus, a.k.a. Hardware Nerdvana

by Joey deVilla on July 17, 2008

Joey\'s Unofficial Ruby Fringe Guide to Toronto - Small logoWelcome to installment number seven of Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto, my guide to Accordion City for attendees of the RubyFringe conference or for anyone who’s wondering about interesting stuff in Toronto.

The previous articles in this series are:

  1. Where Did All the Cigarettes Go?
  2. Getting from the Airport to the Hotel
  3. Boozin’ in Accordion City
  4. The Lay of the Land, Part 1
  5. FAILCamp
  6. The Best Damn Cookie in Town

This article will cover Active Surplus, a long-time resident of Queen Street West and a surplus electronics-and-gear store like no other. It’s a short walk away from the Metropolitan Hotel and well worth a visit.

If you’re a mad scientist, electronic hobbyist, artist, looking to get your stereo hooked up or even getting stuff for your wedding, I recommend taking a look around Active Surplus on a regular basis. A fixture of Queen Street West since my high-school days (the early 1980s!), Active Surplus is a warehouse filled with bins of all sorts of gadgets, gears, cables, adapters, speakers and all sorts of electronic and mechanical stuff that you’re just not going to find at Best Buy or Radio Shack, especially at their prices.

Active Surplus is located at 347 Queen Street Westhere’s a Google Map showing you the way there from the Metropolitan Hotel.

Here’s what it looks like once you climb up the stairs leading into the store:

They’ve got all sorts of cables: audio, video, computer…

…and there are power strips and extension cords aplenty, all going dirt cheap:

They’ve got a row of interface peripherals — mice, trackpads and keyboards, including this water-resistant flexible USB keyboard:

…and there are all sorts of electric motors and pumps, from those for small aquariums to those for light industrial purposes:

You can unleash your inner security officer with one of these surveillance cameras:

Or perhaps it’s your inner meter maid you want to unleash with these assemblies from decomissioned electronic parking meters:

They’ve got a section of bin devoted to digital camera and card goodies. They’ve got all kind of card readers going for very low prices:

If RubyFringe turns into that kind of party, you’ll know where to buy electric trimmers:

Active Surplus has a good stock of pens, for those of you who like taking notes by hand:

They have a few bins of sunglasses as well as 3-D glasses:

Need to cordon off an area so that you can do CSI-style investigations? They’ve got police barrier tape:

They have a seemingly endless supply of stickers and adhesive-backed mini-mirrors:

I have no idea what this glass thing was originally for (bedpan?), but I’m sure all of you who listen to jam bands saw this and thought “bong!”:

Here’s a portable toilet, suitable for camping. I love that they felt it was necessary to say that you’re not supposed to try the in the store:

And last but not least, they’ve got “Baby Legs”, which are described as “young padawan parts, thanks to Darth Vader.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Danny V July 17, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Active Surplus is an amazing place for all kinds of gadgets and gadget parts. I’ve literally spent hours browsing the shelves and uncovering all sorts of cool doo-hicky’s and thingamabobs.

At the front of the store they have some new stuff, but it’s in the “bins of destiny” that you will find the interesting things (e.g. 700 Farad capacitor which, if you have some electronics knowledge you’ll realize, is a lot of Farads).

The stair entrance Joey mentions adds to the stores allure. Definitely worth checking out while out on a stroll.

Sandy Kemsley July 17, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Okay, first you “out” Le Gourmand, then Active Surplus?! My stomping grounds will be overrun with Ruby Fringe types all weekend!

Joey Bishop February 22, 2009 at 8:59 am

The staff can be very arrogant and abusive at Active Surplus — especially the tall guy who wears all black/black cap. Beware and bring attitude.

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