back to article David Atherton: 'I don't miss Dabs'

This is part one of a two-part interview with Dabs founder and channel legend David Atherton, which we ran earlier this year. We enjoyed it so much, we thought we'd highlight it again, in case anyone missed it first time round. Part two is here. “I logged on to my bank account on about 3 May 2006, and found there was £24m in it …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    “I was a heavy coke user like a lot of people in the industry were,” he says. ”But when you stop working, the physical processes are different.”

    Nice try to mitigate and lessen the seriousness of the comment "I was a heavy coke user".

    Sure, it's alright, everyone else was using coke, it was the done thing.

    I've been in the IT business 20 years and have never once come across a coke head.

    Don't try and claim we IT professionals are coke users, we're not, but you are/were.

    Moron. Don't make excuses for your own pathetic personality.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Coke

      >>I've been in the IT business 20 years and have never once come across a coke head.

      It's because they're discreetly doing it in the toilets without you.

    2. Duncan Hothersall

      I'm reminded of The Onion

      "WASHINGTON, DC—In a surprise announcement with wide-ranging implications for U.S. narcotics policy, Drug Enforcement Administration director Thomas Constantine acknowledged Monday that some winners "may occasionally" use drugs."

    3. Evil Graham

      On the other hand

      I've been in the IT business 25 years and never once have I made £24 million.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We're all at it

      I'm semi-retired and I still get through two or three tins a day.

    5. Stone Fox

      he's a moron? Maybe you should look in the mirror

      he's the one that just sold a multi-million pound company.

      It irritates me the way prudish people comment on something they've never tried.

      Sure, he might have used coke to get by on long days, but hey! whatever works!

      I'm not advocating a cocaine addiction, I don't have one, and I don't use the stuff (although I have occasionally in the past) what I'd like to advocate is people that don't have a clue what they're talking about insulting and condemning people. Especially people who are probably doing a hell of a lot better than themselves.

      And sarah was spot on, just because you don't know they're coke users doesn't mean your colleagues / friends don't touch it, it just means you don't know the tell tale signs.

    6. Anonymous Coward


      Oh stop! You're making my sides ache! As Ms Bee points out, you missed out because:

      a) you are as socially acceptable as chlamydia.

      b) you work in one of those god awful 'software houses' where personality is not a requirement and is mostly missing in the employees. Party after work? Oh, no thanks, I'm off to play (insert name of MMO/FPS here)

      c) you've never worked in the City of London.

      Coke? Yeh, been there, done it, had a great time, moved on. I've spent 25 years in the I.T. industry, lots of my colleagues have puffed, snorted, drank to excess - much the same as in lots of other industries.

      Don't tar me with that 'goody two shoes' brush, I hate the colour.

    7. asdf Silver badge

      As Robin Williams said about the lovely blow

      Coke is Gods way of letting you know you are making too much damn money. Seriously I am all for partying and all and think that gov drug policy does more to hurt society than help but even with pot I have never seen a long term user that wasn't a miserable bastard half the time. What is especially sad in Europe is seeing all these MDMA burnouts in their 30s and 40s now. I get high on life is such a pile of shit statement but avoiding massive misery much of the time for a few hours of joy seems to make more and more sense as you get older.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        ITYF that coke is a drug of the proles as well now. No longer do you need to be paid like a banker to avail yourself of the chemical pleasures of coke (and yes, plenty of drugs are *fun* despite the dangers).

        Really, the dealers are to be commended, they are striving to offer equal opportunities way faster than any government department could hope to. There's also a good argument that government drug policy is the cause of a large share of the misery that users endure. Problem is that the illicit nature of drug use is a goodly portion of the thrill.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My experiences

    Dabs used to be quite good, but there was a point in time where there prices went up and there became less reason to shop from them.

    Delivery was good, but heck, after sales services was absolutely diabolical.

    I tend not to use them these days: there's lots of other companies which sell at a better price than Dabs.

    And their new website..morons..messed it right up in my opinion.

    I used to advise friends, colleagues, if you want to buy from Dabs, think about the item you're buying and the likely hood of you having to return it. And if they do mess up, or the product doesn't work, what's the impact on you of returning it back to them? Because it will take them ages to get a replacement to you. If it's really important you have the item shipped quickly and you can't tolerate having to wait a couple of weeks or more to have them collect and send a replacement then don't buy from Dabs.

    Even had them ship completely the wrong thing, and then found colleagues to which that had happened as well.

    The other thing with Dabs..if it says it's not in stock..then don't order it..ignore their expected replenishment dates when they expect new stock to arrive..let me say that again..completely ignore the date when they say fresh stock will arrive.

    I rarely use Dabs now.

  3. AndyS

    part two...

    I've never understood why we don't treat drug addicts like this with the same contempt as drug addicts sniffing glue in a disused station.

    In part two, can you ask him if it was his idea to put everything from memory cards to mice in 2 foot long boxes, and add a £17 surcharge to post the box to bits of the UK his company didn't realise existed?

    Maybe everyone in the company is stoned?

    1. Roland Bavington


      Why would you hold any sort of addict in contempt?

    2. Chris Parsons


      Used to use them all the time, but prices are not special and Customer 'Service' is worse, so never use them now. I think I'd even prefer PC, no, I didn't mean that.

  4. Chris Miller
    IT Angle

    He was never in the IT industry

    He had an online sales outlet that sold (inter alia) IT kit. That doesn't make him part of the IT industry, unless you think the MD of Comet manufactures washing machines.

    And if he's only getting 0.25% on £24m, he should seriously consider changing his bank. I presume he's burnt through (or snorted) most of his cash and is now seeking gainful employment once more.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Coke

    > It's because they're discreetly doing it in the toilets without you.

    How very true. I remember a few album launches which suddenly became populated with excitable and talkative people. And those were just the NME journalists...

  6. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    Worst ever mail-order company

    Their "customer service" wasn't. You couldn't contact them by phone, emails got an automatic reply, and letters were ignored. This seemed to be a deliberate policy. I got stuck in a loop where my expensive purchase was lost in transit, but they wanted me to confirm something before they would ship a replacement, but I had no way to give them that confirmation. Then the product was out of stock. This went on for several months. Obviously not a company that I would buy from again.

    So, I'm now not too surprised to hear that they were being run by a drug user.

  7. Nimrod

    Good to see him back on form

    For a number of years I worked with Dave & Dabs advising him and insuring his suppliers, the meetings etc I had with him were always good fun if a bit high octane and I would like to think that we both learnt from our business relationship. I certainly know that I and the organisation I worked for at the time helped Dabs through some tough times, during which Dave learnt the value of what we could do to help him and other organisations like his.

    For good or bad we have both moved on to new things. One thing I am certain of, knowing Dave, is that whatever he turns his hand to he will give it his all and make a success of it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    without any disrespect to RotaCyclic there is a difference between an IT Professional and being involved within the IT Channel. I don't think that Dave would describe himself as an IT Professional, he was a business man who built a successful company which happened within the IT industry.

    I've been in the channel since '98 and have come across many, many heavy coke users... this has been in distribution, reseller and also manufacturer levels. Back in the day when there were large marketing budgets and plenty of corporate events lasting whole weekends (and longer) it was inevitable that there would be certain social groups forming that were heavy coke users.

    I look back on those events with fond but slightly hazy memories...

    AC for obvious reasons

  9. Peter Kay

    You do have to wonder why he had nothing else to do

    I can see that if you're working 70-80 hours a week there might be some adjustment, but if you're working a thirty hour week you have more than enough time to consider what you might do with your retirement/large supply of cash. Is it just me that gets bored of staying up till 4-5am and partying after 2-3 days and wants to do something different?

    Dabs isn't a bad vendor, but I do think it lost something when it moved to its automated system.

    I suspect when he talks about taking coke he's referring to a very specific part of the industry; I doubt it's endemic.

    I hope part two is a bit more interesting though; 'Rich man gets off his head on drugs' isn't exactly a revelation or even (sorry Sarah) particularly IT related other than as a cautionary tale about what can be wrong when you have too much money and insufficient structure in your life.

    1. Ned Leprosy

      Re: Worst ever mail-order company

      I can think of a few other candidates for "worst ever", but Dabs were pretty seriously awful. Strange, because many years ago, their customer service department were actually very helpful, but five or six years back they became crap beyond belief. Maybe their performance was inversely proportional to their illustrious leader's drug intake and the assorted hangers-on that tend to come along with that sort of thing; all I know is that trying to get them to sort out even the most basic problem was an excruciating and interminable experience. It'd be interesting to see if they've improved since he sold the company, but I won't be first in line to find out.

      Then again, the same thing happened to Simply Computers when they were rebranded as Misco: "New! Now with no customer service."

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge


        being taken over by BT made them shit. Admittedly the last time I bought from them was around 2003/4

        1. Ned Leprosy

          Re: Maybe...

          > "being taken over by BT made them shit."

          I'd like to blame BT, but I don't think they're the culprits here: and though BT aren't exactly paragons of good customer service either, they're probably still a big improvement over what Dabs' customers had become used to. Dabs had become pretty diabolical a good couple of years before BT appeared on the scene in 2006. Or rather a bad couple of years, if my memories of trying to get them to take back defective stock are anything to go by... Dabs must've lost a lot of customers during that time due to their habit of jerking them about.

    2. Mark 65 Silver badge


      "I've been in the channel since '98 and have come across many, many heavy coke users... "

      Do you live on the boat that rocked?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    IT and drugs

    I know a few cocaine users and a lot of stoners within IT; I wouldn't say it was a huge amount but there were a few of them.

    I know a few years ago of people pulling almost 20 hour shifts and coming in the next day all buzzing; the fact that they only had a few hours of sleep between shifts always got me though.

    I think I would class myself as a late nighter and drinker (not to be confused with a drunk) but I always am at work; I used to be part of the circle but it got a bit to manic and it was easier out of the inner circle (little to no sleep and hangover aren't a great combination).

    Anon because it's safer.

  11. mfraz

    What ever happened to..

    The other half of the duo that started DABSPress in the late 80s - think Bruce Smith was his name. They were great back then, used to own a few of their books too.

  12. lukewarmdog

    I made loads of money

    And spent loads on coke.

    Hmm, seem to have misplaced my papal hat in a forrested area. I hope no bear steals it, has a poo in it then brings it round to my house to return it but then steals it again.

  13. Simon B

    What's the obsession with coke? it's a good story!

    Everyone's obsessed with the coke element of the story. I found the story an interesting read :)

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