Offline reply from Jim Van Nuland (thought folks would like to hear this)
SO -- why /were/ people held to the end of the auction?
It wasn't anything obvious unless you were there, Back When It All
Began. Short answer: limit capability of the computer program.
For Auction III (1987) I had written an auction program that ran on
an IBM PC. It had a limitation that only one action could be done at
a time. When an item was to be auctioned, I'd call up that item
number, and call out the description and minimum bid. Then I'd
monitor the action to catch the buyer's number and the price (in that
order!). I'd enter that, and then we could start handling the next
item being sold.
It worked decently well for it's time.
Now -- consider someone wanting to pay up and leave. I could do
that after a sell. I would enter the person's bidder number, and
print the list of what that person bought and sold. Only then could I
resume following the selling.
Meanwhile, everybody else was sitting there idle. That's bad enough
by itself. Kevin didn't like that; he felt that selling should go
fairly quickly, leading to "bidding fever" -- people would be anxious
to bid, rather than sitting there mulling it over before bidding.
Many people agreed with him.
So -- that's why people had to stay.
With a long auction, (would you believe 8 hours?!!) we'd take a
break from selling, and people could check out with me, settle with
the treasurer, and leave.
1987 was one of the largest.
We started registering stuff about 1 pm. Some people had
pre-registered by mailing me their lists; I'd entered those before the
auction. Two people were entering stuff using two computers.
Started selling at 5 pm, there was a 20-minute break about 10 pm.
Selling ended well after midnight, checkout went past 2 am. There
were 483 items registered, 115 bidder-seller numbers issued, 430 items
sold, 87 people bought or sold (or did both).
No, I do not have all those numbers in my head. I have the
transaction file for each auction, and did a sort that brought all of
each transaction together. Then it was simply counted.
Clear Skies (and auction history)!
Jim Van Nuland, San Jose Astronomical Association