What’s this one for? Who knows!
January 10, 2020 7:42 AM   Subscribe

 
I'll admit it. Looks like both links are the same, though.
posted by jzb at 7:45 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


[Protip: Archive.is will archive the content, but not the page-view tracking mechanisms, so you can read the article without too much broken formatting and no other hassles. They have a number of different domains, including archive.today, which currently refreshes to archive.ph.]
posted by filthy light thief at 7:46 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


My bad; this is the tweet I meant to link to. (Thanks for the tip filthy light thief!)
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:49 AM on January 10


I do... except I don't know which of those cables I'll never use. Turns out I still need USB B cables.
posted by wotsac at 7:50 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]




And your point is?
posted by thelonius at 7:51 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I keep back up cords for things I do use on a day to day basis in case the ones I'm currently using breakdown, but if it's a cord for something I cannot recall, then I get rid of it. It's mostly just clutter and if it's something really important, then ebay or an amazon-equivalent will likely provide a way back.
posted by Fizz at 7:53 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Willing to part with some really nice Monster Cable component video cables.
posted by art.bikes at 7:53 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Having been shocked at the price of a new lightning-to-headphone cable recently--omg, it was so exorbitant!--I don't think I'm going to be throwing away any of my cables anytime soon.

Although at our last yard sale, I did set up a "free cables if you need them" box that was very popular!
posted by mittens at 7:56 AM on January 10 [14 favorites]


We have at least four such in our house, maybe more, but they do see occasional use. Between all the computer and live audio gear, it is a lot of bloody cables though.
posted by Dysk at 7:56 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Happy to share! Archive.org appears to have a different goal from Achive.today/is/ph, which is to archive everything as it was found, while Archive.whatever archives the content, but not the scripts.

And this is me, but not my wife. I'm the one who has the box o' cords, and I recently took a bunch to Goodwill (who has an e-cycle program), after realizing that I 1) no longer had anything that would work with those cords, or 2) had no idea what even used them in the first place.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 AM on January 10


I just went through my box of cords and culled it. I still ended up with a box of cords.
posted by bondcliff at 7:57 AM on January 10 [32 favorites]


[Twiddled that link, carry on.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:58 AM on January 10


It's not the cords, it's the chargers for laptops which I probably threw away 10 years ago, but you never know, do you?
posted by signal at 7:58 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Yes, I have a box of cords. Many of them I will never need or use again. But there are some days where we've been looking for a spare or replacement cord for some device/monitor/whatever, and the box has one.

Don't malign the box of spare cords, for it knows and will disappear the cord you most need at the worst possible time.
posted by nubs at 7:59 AM on January 10 [17 favorites]


One box? You're not trying at all, are you?
posted by theora55 at 8:00 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


You'll all be laughing when I'm the last one with a SCSI cable from the 90's and the fate of the world resides in reading......no what sorry that's some random Iomega Buz cable dongle from early 2000's...my bad.

Also my youngest decided to pee into a box of random cables and old electronics I had in the garage during our last move rather than walk upstairs to the bathroom. That was one way to force me to throw them away. Hey - why does the cable for the printer smell..and why is it so sticky.......
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:01 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


I have boxes of cords, cables, and devices that have become obsolete but I feel like "I may need this one more time." My success rate is low, but not 0, in terms of actually having to go find something. I still have devices and cables from the early 90s.

It looks like I'm about to embark on yet another move so this may be a good time to sort them out.
posted by jzb at 8:04 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


When we moved to our current place in 2012, I had this cheap set of plastic drawers that held all of my spare cables. The movers wrapped it in plastic so it wouldn't open in transit. That thing is still, to this day, wrapped in plastic sitting in our basement.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:04 AM on January 10 [9 favorites]


I always really enjoyed the idea of making St Patrick's Day the day of casting out the snakes as an annual decluttering ritual.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:06 AM on January 10 [27 favorites]


You'll all be laughing when I'm the last one with a SCSI cable from the 90's and the fate of the world resides in reading...

I not only still have SCSI cables, I still have the Umax scanner they connect to.
(and, if anyone is interested in acquiring these lovely antiques, please let me know where to send them)
posted by Thorzdad at 8:11 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I'm convinced that the world will one day need that virus Jeff Goldblum wrote to defeat the independence day aliens again and I'll have the only remaining scsi drive cable. To get it from me you will have venture through a cave (my closet), fight monsters (my cat), avoid avalanches (the stuff in the closet) and solve a mystery (which shoebox is it in?). While you do this you should probably crack wise, resolve your various relationship issues with your father and your partner, learn some respect and hold life more precious.

Then I expect you to find out that the drivers you need are unavailable.
posted by srboisvert at 8:14 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


At work I had a drawer full of cables and doodads. Everyone laughed until they needed one and only I had it.
posted by tommasz at 8:16 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I feel like too many of us get stuck between "I should just recycle these" and "I will keep these hung neatly coiled on hooks and labeled just in case," which, if you're going to keep them, would be the right way.

Leaving them in a box is like leaving the dishes in the sink; solves nothing but allows you to forget about the mess for a while.

And now I'm wondering if there's not an opportunity in selling cord-sorting kits with preprinted labels and a wall grid and hooks and little velcro cord wrappers. The perfect gift for Dad!
posted by emjaybee at 8:18 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Copper is recyclable. Take the box to an E-Waste recycling event. I do it every couple of years. Still have that SCSI cable, though...
posted by Chuffy at 8:18 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Having been shocked at the price of a new lightning-to-headphone cable recently--omg, it was so exorbitant!--I don't think I'm going to be throwing away any of my cables anytime soon.
Exactly the reasoning that led to me keeping a Centronix printer cable at least ten years beyond my custody of any computer possessing a parallel port to which I might connect it. I finally gave it up this fall.
posted by Nerd of the North at 8:20 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Leaving them in a box is like leaving the dishes in the sink; solves nothing but allows you to forget about the mess for a while.

Yeah, but eventually I'll die.
posted by ODiV at 8:26 AM on January 10 [26 favorites]


When we moved last year, we got rid of our entire "random electronics cables" box. There were maybe two dozen cables in there, and we dumped them all! We were able to give away a few, the rest went to electronics recycling.

I just checked, and... we have a box of random electronics cables on a shelf in the garage. It looks about as full as the old one. I remember chucking one or two cables in there, but I don't know where most of these came from. Good God, are they breeding in there?
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 8:27 AM on January 10 [11 favorites]


What was weird to me is that the article mentioned extension cords...those are not the same as random device cords! You don't throw those out unless they break!

Also you should keep some two-to-three-prong converters around because for some reason many extension cords only allow two. And one house I lived in had all two-prong outlets, so I bought a big box of those suckers.
posted by emjaybee at 8:31 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I don't know. I've got a lot of stuff that I don't need to keep. The cords take up a lot less space than the chair I don't like but haven't bothered to get rid of, the books I've already read and probably will never read again or reference, the set of bed clothes that I don't ever use because I don't like them but keep around just in case the good ones are ruined and the laundry is down for some reason, the djembe that I never play because I'm never home when my neighbors aren't asleep, the tuxedo shoes that I keep because once every eight years I get invited to a black tie event. . .

And, every year or so, I genuinely do need a random barrel connector or an IDE cable for something, usually in a hurry. Of all my space-wasting sins, I feel better about cords and connectors than most other things. They're a lot more likely to actually be useful than most of my closet. They're three pages down on my list of stuff to bother getting rid of.
posted by eotvos at 8:32 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


It was a box, then I got a new desk and they just have a dedicated drawer.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:33 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I sorted mine out, put them in labeled ziplock bags, sorted by type. Now to get them all into just one box...
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:34 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


One box for video
One box for audio
One box for hard drives, zip drives, etc
One box for telephony
One box for unknown

And yet I still needed to buy a new cable AND a dongle to connect my phone to a portable projector I just bought.
posted by gwint at 8:35 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


ZeusHumms is me! Now I need to purge some others stuff from my storage shelves so I have space for box of neatly sorted and bagged cords...
posted by tavella at 8:37 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I totally use the cords, but even though I try to bundle them coherently and well, they are a snarl each time and I for some reason moved them to a completely different part of my apartment each time.

Which reminds me, I should pull them all out, arrange them then stuff them in a different cabinet tomorrow because it brings me joy.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:38 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


What's going on?

o It's annoying or not interesting
x I'm in this post and I don't like it
o I think it shouldn't be on MetaFilter
o It's spam
posted by sacrifix at 8:42 AM on January 10 [20 favorites]


Yes, I have a gigantic box of mostly cords and such. But I'm not throwing away that component video cable. I paid 50 bucks for that thing! On Monoprice!
posted by dirigibleman at 8:42 AM on January 10


A box? One box? I have a room full of them.
posted by Splunge at 8:43 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I got into a computer building spree a couple of years ago and succumbed to "eh another pack of 4 SATA cables is only like $10 on Amazon, don't spend more than a few minutes hunting for one in the Pile Of Assorted Tech, just let Prime do the fulfillment." Later on when I settled down to clean up I discovered I apparently have a lifetime supply of SATA cables. Just in time for the standard to change, presumably. I can't wait to see what to.

But yeah, my assorted cables get winnowed out when their plasticizers start to give up the ghost and they get sticky or stiff or I go through a bin and discover I have like 6 different sets of yellow/red/white composite video cables that I'll never need again.

...until I do and then I kick myself for not having either the copper or the connector and I have to spend $8 on Amazon or eBay. *sigh*

On the other hand you'll pry my assortment of orphaned wall warts from my cold dead hands, man. There's no telling when I'll need a 15v 3.5A power supply! And replacing those is either not particularly cheap or not particularly compact, choose your poison.
posted by Kyol at 8:46 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


The local mega-thrift store chains generally have a wall of individually-priced cords/cables.

Because of musical gear I am always on the lookout for spare IEC 60320 C13 cables, as well as shielded cat 5e and printer-style USB cables.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:48 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Sometime in the previous decade, the confusion of cables overwhelmed me and I organized the things into one small plastic box, most cables labeled or sight-identifiable by the owner. The Mac laptop to projector/screen dongles are in my laptop bag, labeled. I was on a conference committee and I have a lot.

Say what you will about Apple, but the MagSafe power cords were brilliant, and they sold converters from v. 1 to v. 2. We still have two v. 1 power cords (and converters) used regularly, along with another three or four v. 2, also used regularly (as in, walk into any room someone works in, and you can probably find a power cord). Don't get me started on USBC and how I need to buy at least one spare charging cable. At least there is a 3rd-party magnetic adaptor.

Extension cords are in the Christmas lights box, some labelled with a room and window to avoid swapping cords in and out while setting up the electric candles.

It turns out overly-fussy organization systems keep some of my executive function problems at bay! And I know myself well enough to keep the labeling supplies organized spend the energy to actually make a label. (Blue tape, lunch baggies, and sharpies.)
posted by JawnBigboote at 8:48 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]



One box for video
One box for audio
One box for hard drives, zip drives, etc
One box for telephony
One box for unknown


And in the darkness bind them.
posted by Mayor West at 8:49 AM on January 10 [54 favorites]


Being a musician with a hobbyist-approaching-semipro level home studio, I have entire cabinets full of drawers full of cords and cables I don't use (much). I have power cord drawers, patch cable drawers (balanced and unbalanced), XLR cable drawers (mic cables and patch length), and instrument cable drawers. And a veritable spaceship-looking collection of adapters all connected to each other.

Just because, years ago, I once recorded 16 tracks on a band in the room all at once doesn't mean it won't ever happen again. Right?
posted by tclark at 8:50 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I absolutely have this box sitting in my basement. In my defense, it's mostly adapters/cords for things that were one-offs that I'm pretty sure were never manufactured again after their initial run. If you ever need a mini-USB adapter (not a MICRO-USB adapter, those are profligate, but the mini had a good run for like three years in the mid-aughts) or the proprietary three-pronged adapter for a 2001-era Dell laptop, ain't no Amazon fulfillment service gonna get it to you overnight.

Next let's talk about the box full of physical storage media I keep next to it, containing every CD and DVD for every video game and album I bought before about 2011.
posted by Mayor West at 8:57 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I read this as "You have a box of cArds you'll never, ever use again." and was nodding along thinking of the box of random birthday/congrats/sympathy/random/neutral greeting cards in my closet that I'll probably never use.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 8:58 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Just took at look in my box...found a usb external floppy drive! Hooked it up to my iMac and damned if the thing didn't mount and run a disc (yes...I have a few floppies sitting around, too)
posted by Thorzdad at 9:00 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


But if you need one, then you have it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:02 AM on January 10


Yep, I was just thinking about this last weekend. Only one box, but I think it may be finally time to let it go bye bye.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 9:02 AM on January 10


Like ZeusHumms, I have all my old cables bagged by type. I admit I probably don't need 3 ADB cables. Or any of my S-Video cables, or component-video cables, or Firewire cables (400 and 800, thank you). And I probably don't need 70 USB-A to Micro-B cables.

But if I ever do, I can find them in no time.
posted by adamrice at 9:03 AM on January 10


Also, is this the thread where I lament that I never got hold of a BeBox back in the mid 90's with its custom 37 pin GeekPort - a combined analogue and digital cable. Because they were cool.

And can we just agree the worst cables are custom KVM switch cables which seem to tangle everything with their medusa snake like heads, and they trick you into thinking you've found the cable you need - only 15 minutes into fighting with the cable bundle you figure out its one part of the larger cable, and doesn't have the right connector at the custom end. And even if its the right cable one pin on one head of one side of the cable will be broken.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:03 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Leaving them in a box is like leaving the dishes in the sink; solves nothing but allows you to forget about the mess for a while.

I use my kitchen sink a lot, and I only have one. Boxes are virtually free and unlimited.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:04 AM on January 10


I do have the box, and will probably always have the box. I have had to return to the box just enough times recently - printer that fell off wifi, a dongle for a weird display input, an ethernet cable* - that I will always keep the box.

But I also now have a labelmaker and it is present at every unwrapping of new tech. It's a little bit tedious but wow has it given me back several hours of my life already in stuff I didn't have to be confused about.

*Which was so old I ordered a couple new ones.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


This is such a universally-acknowledged issue, I'm a little surprised that I can't find a webpage to help with this. God knows it would get plenty of clicks. A nicely-indexed and clearly-photographed guide to identifying cords and cables for stereo systems, TVs and other video components, computers, internet connections and phone, etc.
posted by desuetude at 9:09 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


i'm saving them all in a box to send to my brother - a really tiny box, really packed in there, so they tumble out and slither under the couch, behind the fridge, into drawers...

(his reward for gifting my child with a grabber arm toy thing that was a menace for years)

soon
posted by Caxton1476 at 9:22 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


There was a recent Mefi Project posting about a jewelry artist who would like your old cables.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:26 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I tell myself I'm going to "take the copper in" at some point. I have never done such a thing, don't know where I would even do it, but I know copper is future-gold so I can't just throw away that precious metal.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:27 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I'm a little surprised that I can't find a webpage to help with this.

r/coolguides often has posters of connectors, which I always find really helpful.
posted by mittens at 9:36 AM on January 10


A box? One box? I have a room full of them.

Technically your home is a kind of box and filled with lots of wires.
posted by Fizz at 9:39 AM on January 10 [18 favorites]


Toronto's last store that had all of these things and knew what they were for just closed: Above All on Bloor W. Serial, SCSI, ADB, LocalTalk, C19 power cables: when you needed em, Steve had them.

Michigan State U Surplus store had a "Even we don't know what these are for" cable bin last time I was in. I was almost tempted by the Cat5-DC barrel connector cable that was very much not a POE injector, but even I have standards.
posted by scruss at 9:44 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I maintain a lot of weird old tech (especially a lot of pre-80s stuff but I do have some 80s and 90s stuff) so yes I do have such a "box". I generally purge it when we have our yearly dead electronics day at the garbage dump though but I usually keep at least one sample of most cables in there as you never know but again I'm usually using some of my antiquated tech at least once a year. Saying that, the remote for the laser disc player that sits on my bookshelf should probably be dusted more regularly.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:51 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of throwing out the cord for the WaterPik, not remembering what it was for at all*, and then too late, later finding the WaterPik and remembering what it was for.

* I know you have to use one, but seriously, I couldn't store it in my tiny shower and I never ever remembered to charge or refill it or that it existed when I had to store it outside the shower.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:59 AM on January 10


The tweet didn't get around the paywall for me, so thanks for the tip filthy light thief.

I have definitely collected too many cords and, occasionally, culled them. I always worry, when sending them off to the eco-station for recycling, that I'll end up finding and needing the device that went with the cord (often, with these old cords, they have some weird proprietary connector, because USB standards hadn't been widely adopted yet). So far, I think that's only happened once and I ended up finding a second cord in the OTHER cord drawer...
posted by asnider at 10:00 AM on January 10


"A" box, as in singular? At least 3 that I can go to directly, but, have found the occasional useful cord tucked in amongst the late 90's cellphone chargers.
posted by sammyo at 10:07 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


You'll all be laughing when I'm the last one with a SCSI cable from the 90's and the fate of the world resides in reading

We had to find a SCSI Zip Disk (or was it a tape reader?) last year. I had one squirreled away in a drawer for the occasion. It even worked too.
posted by bonehead at 10:10 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Old computers are my hobby so my weird and obsolete cord boxes are epic. I never throw away a functioning cable as I never know when I will want to use some obscure bit of ancient tech. Recently I needed a 25' parallel printer cable to hook up a dot matrix printer on one side of a room to a computer on another side. I knew I kept that thing for 20 years for a reason!

Every so often I dig though and try to organise and de-tangle the things, as cables stored together seem to like to tie themselves into a giant gordian knot when you turn your back on them.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:22 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


You don't use them until you do.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:34 AM on January 10


I assume we're all just going to send them to foone at some point, but if you want to act sooner, note that Facebook has buy nothing groups, and Craiglist is still surprisingly effective for giving stuff away. My SO recently got rid of a fistful of laynards collected from years of a work event.

Also, if you are in LA, the Goodwill on Beverly will take e-waste all the time (no need to wait for recycling).

If anyone know of a place that wants/needs excess PSU cables I would love to know it.
posted by 99_ at 10:57 AM on January 10


Not only does my box have cords, it also has an old Zip drive, two Handspring Visors and an old Visorphone.

*puffs chest proudly*
posted by Big Al 8000 at 11:21 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


I have boxes of cables, plural, labeled with their contents. I do cull them periodically, but sometimes culling one of the main boxes just results in one or two things being shunted into the other box, labeled "expensive adapters for obsolete electronics," which has things like the ADB-USB adapter I bought to extend the life of, uh, something, once, and the 30-pin micro SCSI cable that goes with the SCSI dock for a Macintosh PowerBook Duo. I keep that stuff around because I think there might still be a SCSI something, somewhere (probably in the "decommissioned hard drives" box), and I'll regret not being able to access it as soon as I deaccession the stuff in the box of obsolescence.

The saddest part of all, though, is that in addition to the main "network patch cables" box I also now have another, smaller box that contains my most recent order of patch cables color coded by length (1' white, 3' beige, 7' blue, and 14' black), but I can't get rid of the contents of the bigger box because on the odd occasion I need a 25' or 50' cable or a donor for some other project, those aren't going to be a recent acquisition.
posted by fedward at 11:31 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


So I bought a new cellphone, and it takes a USB-C charging cable*. Then I found that Dollar Tree had USB Micro-to-USB-C adapters. Very small and cheap, and they work fine.

* [Can they fucking stop with that changing the cable shit? My Nikon camera has its own Very Special USB cable that I have to search for whenever I want to download the pictures. God help me if I ever lose it.]
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:32 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


My box of mini-B cables magically transitions to all micro-B any time I need a mini-B, and vice versa.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:37 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


I'm sheltering in place for the apocalypse. We aren't hoarders, but we do have a well organized stash of Things We Might Well Need Someday. I also am compiling the library I'll be tending when we become the neighborhood trading post. I'm only mostly kidding.
posted by RedEmma at 11:45 AM on January 10


Yes, I have at least one (possibly more) box of possibly obsolete cables. However, since my main computer is a possibly obsolete Mac Pro from 2009 (hey, it does all the stuff I want it to do, including running a non subscription version of ALL of the adobe products) I will be hanging on to MOST of them.
Also,
YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!
posted by evilDoug at 12:04 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Yes, of course I have such a box. But could I find a spare Ethernet cable this morning when I needed one? Do I have to answer that question?
posted by HillbillyInBC at 12:19 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


There are a lot of proud SCSI cable owners in this thread but nobody has mentioned having any terminators. :)
posted by (parenthetic me) at 12:30 PM on January 10 [10 favorites]


My Nikon camera has its own Very Special USB cable

I find cameras are notorious for this. It's a standard USB plug on one end and, on the other end, some weird-ass proprietary thing that only works with that specific camera (not even all cameras made by Nikon or Canon or whoever it happens to be, but literally just that particular model). God help you if you lose it, because replacing it will be an expensive special order, if it's even possible to purchase the cable on its own in the first place.
posted by asnider at 12:36 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


desuetude does this meet your cable identification needs?

I too have a box of cables (*cough* not just one box). At some point I organised them by storing each cable in a cardboard toilet roll tube (or similar wider tube for thicker cables), carefully labelled with the cable type. They have remained that way for at least a few years, which probably indicates that I haven't actually used them and should get rid of them.
posted by kumonoi at 12:40 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


I Konmaried, moved, Konmaried again, moved again, yet I have a bag of cords. I suspect witchcraft.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:46 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


My Nikon camera has its own Very Special USB cable

My Olympus has one of these stupid cables which is also required to charge it that looks almost, but not quite, exactly like a Micro USB. It always vanishes just before we are leaving for a vacation, and trying to find it always results in great consternation and much swearing.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:09 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I have this box, and while it hasn't completely solved everything, I've found that grouping similar cables together in gallon ziploc bags has really cut down on the amount of time I spend rooting through it when I'm looking for a cable I *know* I should have.
posted by Aleyn at 1:16 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


When all the wireless is rendered useless after the inevitable Great EMP Disaster, my collection of dongles and cables will be like gold. GOLD, I tell you!
Until then, my boxes will continue to be the place where obsolete tech goes to gather dust.
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:01 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I once found myself in Athens with my outdated phone, but without the charger cable. I asked around, and someone in the room squeed with pure joy because yes, she had the correct cable. She didn't have the phone anymore, but had kept the cable just in case... or just in box. And now there was someone who needed it! She was as happy to give it to me as I was to receive it. It was magic.

The cable was so old that it crumbled to bits within a month. But it didn't matter anymore: I was home, it had done its job. The magic had run out, and that was fine, it was there when I needed it.

Also:
of course, the Germans, as always, have a word that you didn't know you needed, but you do. Here it is:
Kabelsalat.
Cable salad. Like word salad, but potentially useful. Enjoy!
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:30 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


kumonoi: At some point I organised them by storing each cable in a cardboard toilet roll tube (or similar wider tube for thicker cables), carefully labelled with the cable type. They have remained that way for at least a few years

Yes! *fist pump*

which probably indicates that I haven't actually used them and should get rid of them.

Nooooooo!
Keep the cables. You'll need them within a week of getting rid of them. It is known.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:33 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Related to Kabelsalat is the Japanese タコ足 (tako-ashi--octopus legs) but more for power.
posted by Gotanda at 3:54 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


A local retro-computer enthusiast is the tidiest packrat ever. He puts old cables in little boxes and carefully labels them. He was recently able to help me with:

* just an Atari joystick cable (the box was labelled "joystick cables and parts")

* ribbons and print thimbles for an NEC Spinwriter (which is about the heaviest thing I've ever moved - cast metal case - and uses three full-sized boards and an 8080 to do the print head control. I'm told it was more expensive than a new car at the time)
posted by scruss at 4:53 PM on January 10


I have a power charger for the old 12" Mac laptops from just after the turn of the century; the ones with the round plug, right before MagSafe. I'll never get rid of it because Eric Meyer (of CSS) fame autographed it when I lent it to him. Meyer's explanations of CSS have helped me so much down the years, it was nice to help him directly.
posted by JawnBigboote at 5:04 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


A box. A box.

See username. Just try to imagine how many cables are involved in my business.

And we're doing inventory next week.

Sob.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:52 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


I have a cabinet of cables (nothing so pedestrian as a box, my word!) and while searching it the other day for an old Apple 30-pin connector for my SO’s broken iPad, I found not one but two unused, still-packaged Lightning cables. They’re not just breeding... they’re evolving.
posted by ejs at 5:55 PM on January 10


OK...what's the most exotic cable you have laying about?

My entranct is the cable used to control a Sony GVD-1000, an 8mm video deck designed for computer controlled editing (there are no front panel buttons) and which, for a very brief moment, one could find software for on both PCs and Macs. I am pretty sure the Mac software was Hypercard based. The PC stuff' I know I owned at least one usable program but can't recall much about except the guy who wrote and supported it would make updates available via a BBS.

One end of the cable is a DB9 serial connector and the other is, well, whatever strange thing Sony had designed for this purpose. Looks kind of DIN-like. I still have some of these cables laying about and, well, jezbus, two of the decks as well.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 6:53 PM on January 10


Too Ticky: Nooooooo! Keep the cables. You'll need them within a week of getting rid of them. It is known.

Our organization built a big beautiful new office building. I purged from all the nooks and crannies in my old office. Three weeks in to the new building I needed the 25-to-9 pin female-female serial port adapter that had lived in my top desk drawer for a decade...
posted by ElGuapo at 7:24 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


This holiday season, the power cable/converter for an inflatable lawn decoration crapped out. My partner Googled and found absurdly expensive replacements online and declared the cost too great and the device dead.

I went down to my meticulously organized cord box and found one with the exact wattage/amperage needed, stripped its ends and connected it to the inflatable with weatherproof connectors. Voila!

Yep. I just dedicate an entire cabinet in the garage to storing this garbage and every seven or ten years, it saves us $7-25.

The people in this thread are my people.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:24 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Well, I do have a couple of SCSI terminators. My prize for having them is ... a couple of SCSI terminators.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:30 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Haha, joke's on you, I threw out a bunch of cables I knew I was just holding onto "in case they were useful" and now I've just got about four standard power cables.
posted by Merus at 11:52 PM on January 10


Somebody should really fire up a mefi project and do a Cables of Metafilter with Scores and Achievements (and exchanges).
posted by srboisvert at 6:15 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


the cable used to control a Sony GVD-1000

Sony should be its own category, because by itself it's going to be responsible for probably fifteen of the top twenty most arcane cables. Before Apple came along and started obsoleting cables with what sometimes seems like alarming frequency, Sony alone was probably the biggest offender of the connector conspiracy. My most exotic cable is probably the custom 7-pin to S/PDIF thing I had to buy to dump audio from a Sony DAT recorder into a computer via an external audio interface. In the non-Sony world I may still have the DB9-to-⅛"-stereo cable I hacked together for serial control of an original TiVo, even though I haven't owned an original TiVo in which to plug it in over a decade.
posted by fedward at 7:33 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


A box of cables? ONE box? Pikers.

Crates. Stackable, with handles. Several have lattice sides so that you can see what kind of cables they contain. SCSI (external and internal, every width and just about every connector. Also terminators), video, USB, Firewire, SATA, IDE, floppy, serial, parallel. Power: C5, C7 and C13. One bin on casters containing multiway power sockets. TWO somewhat larger bins with network cables (no, not just CAT5/CAT6. AUI, thinnet and fiber too), also on casters. Several smaller crates with power supplies, a good amount of them labelled with the device they're for.

Then there are the crates of disks, floppy/Zip/Jaz/Syquest drives, some SCSI tape drives, SCSI adapters, video, network and sound cards, a dozen or so non-smart phones, and the inevitable miscellaneous stuff that this assembly attracts (or secretes. Probably both), like a foldable keyboard for some PDA that's probably in there too.

Inflatablekiwi: You'll all be laughing when I'm the last one with a SCSI cable from the 90's
That would be for your hemisphere only.

Tommasz: At work I had a drawer full of cables and doodads. Everyone laughed until they needed one and only I had it.
They needed to hook up a SCSI expansion box to some system, but the cable was nowhere to be found. I located the box of "those useless cables that we probably should dispose of", and chained three useless cables together to make one very useful cable. The box is still there, with its contents.

a device Good God, are they breeding in there?
Yes. Also, they escape their velcro, ty-raps, ziploc bags and what have you, to inextricably (re-)tangle.

Mayor West: the proprietary three-pronged adapter for a 2001-era Dell laptop
Probably a C5. Most of the weird mains-side computer/laptop power cords were already gone a decade earlier. Manufacturers compensated by fitting ever-so-incompatible plugs on the output side, for every new model. They had been doing that since the first laptops, but stepped up their efforts as the mains side standardised.

Phone chargers mostly standardised on microUSB when the EU put their foot down, but before that? Nokia and Ericsson were just modest, with AFAIK two connector types each.

Inflatablekiwi: And can we just agree the worst cables are custom KVM switch cables
Oh yes. Also, some of the VGA ones are F-M, others M-M, and at least one used DB25 at the switch end. I should label that crate "Goldilocks Trove", as those cables are either too short or way too long, with the right length already being used.

Kirth Gerson:My Nikon camera has its own Very Special USB cable that I have to search for whenever I want to download the pictures.
At an runners event, relay over 160km, where we as motorcyclists were to provide traffic control, the organisation wanted to equip us with GPS trackers. Useful, as such, except that they didn't have the battery capacity to cover the entire event, and they only had mains adapters. "Would it be possible to fit a mains inverter to your motorcycles, like they have in the cars?", Err, not going to happen, we're carrying more than enough stuff already. But that device socket looks quite like the one on my digicam (Nikon, indeed). I pull it out of my backpack, and, yup, it works. "So we just need this cable and a powerbank, one set per moto. Here's the link to a webshop."

On the other end of the "What device is this cable for?" matter, there's the "What cable do we need for hooking up this item?" in our hacker space's computer museum. And no, we don't have all the ones we would seem to need. An umpteen-pin round connector for a Friden Flexowriter? A nearly-100-pin rectangular one for a Lexitron Videotype? Ones that use some standard connector type we can usually figure out and build, but those two aren't the only ones that PEOPLE MUST HAVE HAD A CABLE FOR WHICH THEY'VE THROWN OUT. ARGH.
posted by Stoneshop at 10:44 AM on January 11


On my deathbed, I really will want that RS-232 null modem cable. Did I mention its name is "Rosebud"?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:06 AM on January 11


Not Rosewill?

Esoteria is one thing (8-inch floppy disk drives, anyone?) but since y'all are my people, I'm wondering how many of you are holding onto a box of bad cables? That is, (mostly audio) cables kept for the expressed purpose of being cut and resoldered for when that connector is needed?

Hopefully the situation gets better eventually but I have at least 3 cables that have usb-c connectors on both ends that behave differently.

And now that I'm stockpiling all these cables, who's moved onto wireless? Networking, audio, power.
posted by fragmede at 11:32 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


fragmede: " I have at least 3 cables that have usb-c connectors on both ends that behave differently."

You know, sometimes I get fed up with all the different cable standards and think "To hell with it, I'm getting rid of all my gadgets and replacing them with ones that use USB-C. It'll be a shiny new world of universal compatibility."

And then I get reminded of this. USB-C is still a mess.
posted by adamrice at 11:42 AM on January 11


My husband has a few boxes of cables and chargers. He knows by sight which wall-wart goes with which external hard drive. To me, it is a maze of twisty little cables, all nearly alike, but not actually interchangeable. If I need to use a hard drive, I have to ask him to find the power cable for it. He will select one that appears totally indistinguishable from all the others in that box. I do not know how he remembers which is which.

Cables all ought to come with permanently-attached labels specifying the device they go with, identifying brand, model, function (of device and of cable), and year of manufacture.
posted by snowmentality at 5:57 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I am in this photo and I don't like it
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:05 PM on January 13


 Esoteria is one thing (8-inch floppy disk drives, anyone?)

OH YES PLEASE! Well, not for me, but a bunch of local nerds associated with TPUG – Toronto PET Users Group have developed new drivers for a whole bunch of 8" drives for the PET. Yes, we have people who still use PETs. 8" drives are totally normal things round these parts.

but since y'all are my people, I'm wondering how many of you are holding onto a box of bad cables?

So many half cables. So, so many. I mean, apart from the ones I make access switches from at work. I think I may have half Molex cables and half HP-48 serial cables here, somewhere.
posted by scruss at 4:01 PM on January 14


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