Tom Leufkens Interview
Interviewed By: Shawn "playafly187" Knight
playafly187: Hello everyone. I would like to welcome everyone to our very first interview here at OCIA. Today we are sitting down and chatting with Mr. Tom Leufkens, former owner of Leufken Technologies.
playafly187: Greetings Tom. First up, thanks for taking the time to answer a couple of questions for us. It's a great honor and pleasure to have you with us today.
Tom: It's my pleasure.
playafly187: I suppose a good place to start would be the beginning. When did you get started working with computers?
Tom: Actually my computer involvement dates back to the Amiga line of computers - and my first attempt at overclocking.
playafly187: What were the specs of this machine, and was the overclock a success?
Tom: My first was an Amiga 500, 8mb ram, no hard drive, 7.16 MHz. In theory it should have overclocked but it did not, at least reliably. It was supposed to double the CPU to 14.32 via a changed clock crystal. A year later a company called ICD made it work for a decent price.
Tom: ...and man there was a huge difference going from 7.16 to 14+. I also overclocked a Mac using the same process a year or so later.
playafly187: Very interesting. Did you have equally successful results with the Mac?
Tom: The Mac worked fantastic. It was rather easy. I had a terrible heatsink on it too - back then they did not even require one!
playafly187: Those were the good ole' days.....well, not really, but you get my point ;)
playafly187: Skipping ahead a bit, when did you first start to get into extreme cooling?
Tom: About 6 years ago, with a Celeron 300 (not the A). That was my first attempt at peltier use and watercooling - although not together. I was always a damn degree away from 504 MHz.
playafly187: Peltiers and watercooling setups were definitely extreme at that time. Did you use a watercooling "kit", or construct your own setup?
Tom: As far as I know, home kits did not exist. It was totally home made - a steel coffee can, and copper and aluminum tube wrapped around a spray paint can is a coil as the exchanger. A Wal-mart pump for flow, etc...
playafly187: Quite a unique setup for the time. I bet you had all your friends and relatives amazed... either that, or they thought you belonged in a mental institution.
Tom: They were quite curious to say the least. Thatís how it all started...
playafly187: What type of reaction, if any, did you get from other "computer geeks"?
Tom: clearly two types. I was crazy; or the type that wanted one. Older people mostly thought I was nuts - their mumbling in the background used to piss me off.
playafly187: So from this homemade watercooling setup, were you inspired to create your own online store... Or did that come at a later date?
Tom: That came years later. I used to go to computer shows (fairs) like in Vegas and LA (Pomona) and sell cpus and heatsinks - no one else did this at the time and the money was fantastic. I had a peltier in my sample machine and people asked about temps and asked where they could get one... As a matter of fact, I still have the first peltier cooler I sold - made from a used Tec and heatsink from www.meci.com
Tom: I purchased it off a guy and gave him a new model... sort of a piece of history.
playafly187: So you were a reseller of sorts for the CPU's? Did you manufacture these heatsinks you sold at the fairs?
Tom: Yes, many of them. I eventually added exotics like Alphas and Global Win's. The other vendors at the fair eventually started to figure out where I was getting the sinks and CPU prices dropped a lot. Within 8 months everyone at the fairs were selling the same items. It was no longer practical financially. The heatsink market was just too saturated.
playafly187: So I take it your online store evolved from this?
Tom: Towards the end I really started making watercooling practical. So I diversified... and soon after I determined a website was the way to go. I was actually late in the game with a website, but I was providing products to resellers that already had sites. 1coolpc was ordering peltier kits in quantities of 200+, so I had no need for a site immediately. Skip at overclockers.com and a few others also ordered from me.
playafly187: Tell us about your first website.
Tom: My first site was a free Tripod site!!! I opened this site about 4 years ago. For about a year all transactions were handled through email and payments sent via mail. As the online market then became saturated again, with peltiers and heatsinks, orders from resellers dropped a bit so I decided to start up a real commercial site (higher profit ratio).
playafly187: What was the name of this Tripod site? Leufken Technologies? Or did you adapt that name later on?
Tom: It was something like http://peltiers.tripod.com (itís still online and gets quite a few hits, mostly from really old review links).
playafly187: When did you switch over to your commercial site?
Tom: Not too sure, about 3 years ago. This was around the same time I finally went with a credit card merchant company.
playafly187: As most of our readers know, you have since sold your site to new owners. May we ask what led to this decision of yours?
Tom: I just wanted to do something else, mostly a business that had somewhat normal hours. Running an e-biz, especially with a world-wide market is a lot of work. Customers expect their emails to be answered, even if you are sleeping and they are in India. This was also a request of the wife :)
playafly187: Do you have any expectations for the new owners and how they carry the business, since it still carries your last name?
Tom: I wanted to get someone who could handle things and keep developing new ideas (a must if you want to stay in business) and provide the customers with good service. As for my name, I'm not too worried about that, although I hope for the best. After the sale I flew to Missouri for a week to train the new owners hands on. It would be almost impossible to continue sales and reverse-engineer the designs.
playafly187: How long has it been since you sold the site, and do you have any regrets now?
Tom: I sold the business about 3 months ago. No regrets, I still have the sourcing to tinker and develop my own stuff for myself. I have since opened a store (about 5 months ago) that is doing very well. I plan to open a second store in a town about 40 mi. away in the next 3 months. If I don't open the second store I am going to open up a site that provides pricing and production of any item you would want, via my sources in Malaysia, China and Taiwan. A good start for the starving inventors out their.
playafly187: The store you mentioned you opened, I assume it is computer based? Do you sell watercooling stuff at this store also, or strictly "less hardcore" products?
Tom: Yes, computers, hardware, OEM stuff, etc... All less hardcore. Although both my employees are now watercooling :-)
playafly187: Do you have customers who recognize you from your online doings?
Tom: I have had a few customers drive up from Phoenix and LA to pick up o/c stuff, but not since I sold the site. A few customers recognize the name though and start asking questions.
Tom: That brings up one thing I do miss... I loved the publicity. I actually had people bow to me at the computer fairs!!! (thatís pathetic). It does amazing things for the ego. I think I peaked when the Wall Street Journal did an article on the front page of the Market Place section, starting with Tom Leufkens.
playafly187: Wow, thatís some pretty big publicity. Ever had someone ask for your autograph? lol
Tom: Yes, again pathetic. I'm just an ordinary Joe.
playafly187: Speaking of publicity, fellow staff member Pheenix asked a friend of his if he had heard of Tom Leufkens and he replied with "yeah, the peltier god". How does that make you feel to be referred to as the "peltier god"? Would you consider yourself a pioneer to the watercooling/peltier industry?
Tom: Letís just say I can see why movie stars self-destruct. I love the publicity - it's almost like a drug. As for a pioneer, yes I guess - but only for the home pc market. Watercooling has been used since the invention of the computer - some computers were even submerged in liquid- 25 years ago (supercomputers, that is).
playafly187: In closing, I would once again like to thank Mr. Tom Leufkens for taking the time to answer some of our questions.
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