Cutting the Cords

Philip Berne - Apr 5, 2011
Cutting the Cords

When I suggested to my ex-wife that I might rent a storage space to house some of the stuff I wanted to take with me, she voiced concern.

“That’s how the hoarders always start out.”

Neither of us watches the hoarder TV shows that have cropped up, but she’s seen enough Oprah to have an idea of how the problem begins. At first I started to protest.

[Image credit: Eric]

“I’m not talking about keeping every bit of trash I have lying around. I’m moving from a four bedroom house (and a 15-year relationship) to a single life in a smaller apartment. It only makes sense that I have more stuff than I can store.”

My new apartment has plenty of closet space — for clothing, shoes, the natural accoutrements of a non-hoarder. There is not enough space for everything I own, especially not with all of the toddler stuff I’ll be bringing and inevitably accumulating.

My ex suggested I make a clean break. It was finally time to throw away everything I did not need. She suggested that I pick out the things I sincerely wanted to keep, and toss the rest. Instead of keeping everything that I might want, I should pick out only the things that I need.

I started with the cords. The cables. The chargers. I am not a hoarder, but I will admit to being a pack-rat. I try not to keep things that are useless, but I will hold onto something if I think it might someday be useful or interesting. Usually this doesn’t cause problems, but if there has been one point of contention among my growing collection of junk over the last decade and a half, it has easily been the cords. My ex-wife always hated the cords.

I have bags upon bags filled with cords and cables of all sorts. I have RCA audio/video cables of varying lengths. Every electronic device I use either uses HDMI, VGA, DVI, or its own proprietary connection. Nothing uses RCA, the yellow, red, and white triplet. I keep my best set of RCA cables, an extra-long set with gold-plated tips, and toss the rest.

Why keep even those? Because I kept a VCR. I know, I was just as surprised as you are that I actually still own a VCR. In fact, I own two. I haven’t used them since 1999. In 2000 I bought a TiVo. One of the VCRs is missing a couple knobs on its face. I kept the other one. It may seem useless, but many important moments in my life were filmed on VHS tapes. Sure, I could get those converted to DVD (do people still use DVDs?), or to digital, but just in case I find a tape and need to determine if it’s worth saving, or if I get nostalgic and decide I want to watch the original, it’s nice knowing I have my own VCR, since nobody sells VCRs any more. Of course, in 12 years I haven’t had any reason to use the thing, and I’m not even sure it works, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Because of the VCR, I kept one good coaxial cable. I was going to keep all of my coax, but coax is cheap and easy to come by. An unscrupulous cable installer (a redundant phrase) will cut you a length of coax to your heart’s content. I have coax ranging from 1 foot to five meters. I tossed all of it.

I tossed my old third-party Dreamcast controllers. I sold the console and the games long ago. If I want a Dreamcast again, surely I’ll find controllers and a VMU to go with it. I tossed many, many accessories to game consoles I no longer own. An original Xbox AV cable. I stupidly sprung for the Monster brand, so even when the console went kaput, it seemed a waste to toss the cable. Gamecube controllers. I owned that console for less than a year. I only wanted it for Metroid. Somehow a controller stayed behind.

I have 3 complete AC adapters for Dell laptops, and one for a Sony Vaio. I own no such laptops. I used to own a Dell, but I never owned a Sony. Not sure how that adapter even got there.

I tossed a Sony Location Free box. It was a review sample that I did not have to return. I was so unsatisfied with it that I ended up procrastinating on the review until I no longer worked for the site that sent it to me. But I kept the box. Ditto a set of obnoxiously large iPod speakers. I don’t care how good they sound. A system that requires two ten-pound speakers and a line of speaker wire completely defeats the purpose of an iPod. I kept the Altec Lansing inMotion IM7, a tube-shaped boom box for iPod. It works with even the current models, and it’s awesome. So it gets to live another day.

Worst of all were the chargers. I have crates filled with AC adapters of various voltages and amperages. Almost none of them have the actual brand name of their accompanying product on them. Most are simply stamped with the name of a Chinese town, or factory, or both. There is something poetic about that. They are skilled Chinese laborers, looking for work. I threw them all away without a thought.

I kept a few things I know I should have tossed. I have three laptops that do not work. Even if they did, they would be woefully out of date. I have a Powerbook G3 Mainstreet, a 2001 white iBook, and a 17-inch Powerbook G4. None of them are capable of running the latest OS, and I’m not skilled enough with Linux to make something useful and capable out of them. Plus, they need new motherboards and hard disk drives.

But I love the designs. I love the look of them all. We struggled together, through college and grad school. We looked for a job together when the tech bubble burst. We changed careers, then changed back again. We sang and danced, usually alone in our office. We fought together. We watched companions get snatched away by thieves, or sold to friends and family. We are the survivors. Inside their brains are, collectively, 13 years worth of photos, school assignments, emails, music and more. I know they may never be resurrected. They may never spill their secrets, many of which I failed to back up and have accepted as lost forever. But there is only so far I can go in tossing my digital past, and I just can’t give up these old friends.

Now if I could only find an AC adapter to charge them.

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