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!

17 thoughts on “The DAK Catalog

  1. I remember these! I especially lusted after the graphic equalizers, and wanted the portable EQ unit they had for Walkmen. Totally forgot about it until I saw this post.

  2. My favourite old catalogs are the legendary Bridgestone Bicycle catalogs. Each was beautifully laid out, and had articles on how you didn’t have to buy Bridgestone bicycles by maintaining your own existing bike. It also reverse sold, trying to convince you why their basic bikes were good enough, but if you had to here is why you might want to upgrade to the next model. I highly recommend looking the catalogs up one day and reading them at your leisure.

  3. I know another young boy who is fascinated by LGB train catalogs and, in fact, reads them while he eats. The acorn falleth.

  4. This is awesome! I totally used to absorb the DAK catalog as a kid. As far as I know my family never bought anything from it, but every time I got my hands on one I read it over and over hoping one day I’d be able to get that equalizer, or whatever.

    What’s even more intriguing to me is that no DAK content was online till now. That seems like it just shouldn’t be possible, but there really is a lot of unarchived media out there yet to be posted online. Years ago I found that I had the only surviving digital copy of a racy STNG parody (Cinepak!) when the creator emailed me about it — see my antiquated entry at if you’re curious. Now that has been siphoned off my site onto the usual spam-mirror sites and at least one YouTube account.

  5. Oh boy do I remember those catalogs (glad to accidentally stumble on the blog, by the way!). To this day, I remember him writing about why he hated a certain auto insurance company because, I think, of their stance on radar-detectors (this was before the lizard-like mascot made EVERYONE hate them). When I became old enough to drive and choose an insurance company, Drew’s back-page rambling made a real impression.

  6. Hi, Mr.Cabel,
    Can i ask you a question?
    Is this comment form designed by yourself or some sort of plugin?
    This comment form is awesome!

    Marry christmas & happy new year!

  7. I bought the blank DAK cassette tapes. As I remember they were cheap but lasted as long as any other.

  8. I read all of them and never bought a thing from DAK (after all, it’s weird when kids call up to order something using their parent’s CC).

    Remember the days when we read garbage like that because we didn’t have the internet?🙂

  9. Loved that catalog… I had that EQ *and* those speakers !
    DAK catalog was to my teenage years like the Sears Wishbook was to the little grommet days.
    I used to drive out to their warehouse store in the west valley all the time, that was my candy store 😉
    Thanks for the post and bringing up some good memories.

  10. Thanks so much for posting these. They brought me right back. When I was a teenager, I would read it all cover to cover and marvel at all the cool stuff. I don’t think I ever bought anything from Drew though. Wonder what he’s up to these days.

    Thanks again. I’m so glad I found your website.

  11. Weird, I was just thinking about the DAK catalogs the other day. I remember poring over them in the same way. I’m sure me and my friend growing up (we used to read the catalogs with each other) spent hundreds of hard-earned/saved dollars on stuff from that catalog (the “Sound Barrier Streaker” was my first CD player). sigh. I bet I still have some of the catalogs buried in my stuff at my parents (if they haven’t thrown them out).

  12. You’re forgetting about the awesome DAK store in the valley. They had returns, scratch n’ dents, etc. there for even cheaper than their catalog. We used to make pilgrimages out there from UCLA to buy up cheap gizmos. I still have the DAK breadmaker, and it’s gone up in price since then because it’s a collectible!

  13. This is awesome , thanks for creating this post and for all the catalogs. I too loved these as a kid . Read them over and over. My dad purchased lots of stuff from them speakers, phone, more phones and blank cassettes for sure . This really took me back !

  14. i bought a pair of speakers and an equalizer from DAK, and got many years of enjoyment out of them. Always loved the catalogs as well.

Comments are closed.