As computers, home stereo/theater, and other technology products continue to change, so do the accessories they use, and the tools involved in fixing and maintaining them.
This means adding some new accessories and tools — but that doesn’t mean getting rid of all our old inventory, just pruning them. After all, many of us still have older devices we’re still using — or are asked by family and friends to help them with their older devices. (Or we buy them at yard sales, or get them from friends and family.)
For example, I’m still working on helping somebody do a full save from his old desktop computer, which is running Windows 95 and has a parallel port but no USB ports. I also have several similarly old notebooks from friends that are potentially salvageable and my own not-yet-resaved archive of hard drives and of floppy backups.
Things I’m hanging on to for fun projects like these include:
- USB cables: These pile up, but it’s good to have a bunch, especially with USB now the way that many mobile devices charge. Also, many printers that require USB cables don’t include them, and store prices are often whacky-high, so I hang onto the extras that accumulate. My pile currently includes “Type B” ones for connecting to printers, and cables or adapters for the smaller-size (mini and micro).
- VGA video cable(s): Two or three, since sometimes I get/find monitors that don’t have any; having spares makes it easier to find new homes for these displays.
- Computer power cables: Ditto — having several spares makes sense. Also some of the two and three-connector ones used by many stereo components.
- Ethernet cables: A bunch, from short to medium long.
- Parallel cable: One of these is plenty.
- USB floppy disk drive: One should be enough, but it’s nice to have a spare to lend out. And some floppy disks.
- USB CD/DVD drive: I occasionally need it myself, for use with my new 3-pound Lenovo ThinkPad, which doesn’t have a built-in optical drive., Similarly, I’ve lent this out to a friend who needed to install software on a netbook.
- Adapters: I’ve got a box of video, USB, PS/2, serial, and other cable/port adapters that I’ve built up over the years, from buying sprees at computer stores, and from yard sales. My computer stash includes “gender-menders” (male-to-male, female-to-female), type adapters (e.g., USB-to-PS/2), pin adapters (e.g., VGA 9-to-15). I almost never need these adapters — but when I do, it was worth every penny to have the right one at hand (or several from which I assemble the right combination).
- OS disks: I’ve got a shoebox full — licensed retail copies often turn up at yard sales for a few bucks — ranging from Windows XP back through DOS, along with a Linux or two. Again, rarely used, but invaluable when needed.
I also have a mouse, keyboard, and small LCD, along with video and power cables, for my “testbench” to check out notebooks and desktops.
And I’ve got a few old hard drives, some “sanitized,” some not (yet), for possible re-use.
Things I don’t hang onto, since I’ve got my limits as a tech geek, include hard drive ribbon cables or power supplies. I enjoy disassembling computers, but I’m not interested in building or rebuilding them. I’ve also recently discarded printer and SCSI cables, among other things.
The same logic applies to stereo gear. I’ve got a modest handful of RCA cables, sundry plug adapters, radio antennas, and power cords, plus a small tin of stereo fuses, and a meter to check speaker impedance.
In general, if anything needs anything more complicated than an adapter, cable and fuse, it goes off to tech recycling, or to somebody else who wants to play with it.
I try to periodically — every year or three — go through my stash, and cull the triplicates and the so-obsolete-I-no-longer-care stuff.
But even the old stuff — and the knowledge of how to use it — comes in handy still, for helping people with computers that are way old, but not ready (or their owners aren’t ready) to be disposed of.