Journey Into the Valley of Electronic Death
We all have a drawer or box brimming with ancient A/V wires. See what columnist Steve Castle found in his.
wire mess
Look familiar?
April 09, 2007 by Steven Castle

Maybe this has happened to you: I recently needed to find a little wire for an electronics device and opened what I call the Valley of Electronic Death. It’s a drawer in an old desk that’s chock full of every kind of computer cable/adapter/telephone cord I’d probably used in the past decade or so but probably hadn’t used in the previous 24 months.

Not only did I have to wrench this drawer open, but I also had to fish out virtually every obsolete cord to find what I was seeking. The pile of black, white and gray spaghetti seemed to mock me from the floor of my home office.

But I had a few laughs. Wow, was that a parallel cable that once linked an ancient desktop computer to a long-defunct printer? The connector was almost as wide as my fist. Its primitive form reminded me a Jurassic-era beast. And fittingly, it had been buried beneath a pile of USB cables. This was like excavating for dinosaurs in the way-out west!
Oh look, there’s a serial cable that once tethered a monitor to a computer tower. I haven’t used one of those since I went “laptop” years ago, but I guess they’re still in use. I also unearthed a disturbing number of automobile cigarette-lighter adapters. Yikes! I should banish them to an equally obsolete place in my car.

Of course, there’s always the mystery cord one finds in these places. Its appearance is often accompanied by a “What’s this?” as one yanks the chunky plug-in module and slowly unearths the accompanying tether, which is somehow knotted to every other cord. Even more mysteriously, the one I pulled out had this weird little inch-wide clip that I could not identify. Hmm, experts confer. Most likely extinct cell phone adapter from the Pleistocell Epoch of the early 1990s.

I am embarrassed to say that other artifacts found in the drawer included a Sony Walkman of the Audio Cassettus genus. Hey these days, you never know when a nuclear winter might occur and the only music that may play in my duct tape palace could be a box of old audiocassettes. Perhaps in a few years I’ll be digging old iPods out of that same drawer.

There were also a couple of minitape recorders once used to record interviews. It made me wonder if I could locate a two-line cordless phone with answering machine, caller ID and a way to TiVo my phone interviews without using multiple devices. In the 1980s, I had this really cool phone with its own answering machine built in—and instead of ringing, the little voice inside it said, “You have a telephone call.” Only it didn’t work as well after a few months, and at 5 a.m., it would often intone, “You have a telephone. … You have a telephone. … You have a telephone.” And no, I did not dig that out of the Valley of Electronic Death, because I did not have the telephone for long after that.

But back to that little cord I was seeking. It was just a telephone microphone for one of those minicassette recorders. And it still worked.

So, what’s in your drawer?

Steve CastleSteve Castle is senior editor of Electronic House magazine

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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