The DAK Catalog

The Paper Life-Changer

It’s unbelievable.

When I was little, my favorite thing to read was the DAK Catalog. (Yes, I was an interesting kid.) I’d pore over them, page by page, usually at the dinner table, dreaming the technology inside between bites of Shake ‘n Bake.

Drew Alan Kaplan — DAK — felt like your personal connection to a world of overseas, cutting-edge technology, selling the 80’s to you every month, via direct mail.

Sure, the products were, or at least looked, amazing. But the true star was the catalog itself. Drew wrote every word of every page. Or was that part of the pitch? It doesn’t matter. He sold goods like his life depended on it.

Nearly every product got a full page. The photos were amazing. His copy always clever and concise. The strange, compelling headlines. The “$20,000 challenge” to a radar detector competitor. The electronics that were bargains because of “printing errors” or “missing switches”. You wanted to read it all.

I learned a lot from DAK. So I wanted to share it with you.

World’s Cheapest Time Machine

These catalogs are even more fun in 2012. Fax machines. Shredders. Graphic equalizers. So many phones. So much has changed in a short period of time. We’ve watched it happen.

But I discovered a shocking hole in the internet: nobody had these catalogs online that I could find. So I started buying them on eBay — about one shows up a year, and I am the only person who ever bids. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who loved these pages. I might be. That’s why I scanned them all for you.

There’s something in here for everyone. If you’re a designer, you’ll appreciate the amazing product photography and layouts. If you’re a technologist, you’ll love seeing how far we’ve come. If you’re a writer, you’ll revel in the crisp copy. If you’re a humorist, you’ll laugh at the bear phone.

I hope you enjoy these catalogs as much as I did, and still do.

Click on any cover to download a PDF of that catalog (about 50MB).

(What happened to DAK? After some troubles with Tokai Bank, the money, and the catalog, went away. His amazing Y2K-special website tried to capture the essence of the catalog but just wasn’t the same. He declined my requests for an interview.)

If you have any DAK catalogs lying around, let me know and I’ll add them here!