I was helping a customer clean out their “box ‘o useless parts” a couple of weeks ago. Every customer has one, you know, that box of computer manuals, cables, electrical devices they breathlessly tell you they “have no idea what they belong to but keep just because well … one day I might need it”. Ah yes, computers – enabling that little hoarding gene in so many. So for decades junk gets thrown into this mysterious box of parts, hidden deep in the closet, like shameful computer porn. Eventually someone in the house gets frustrated or fed up with the black box of mystery and drags it out when I come to fix their computer.

I always enjoy this, it’s like a little blast from the past. Occasionally I find a real treasure, usually it’s mountain of obsolete computer stuff. I can count on at least 2 parallel printer cables, various pin to usb adapters, mice, keyboards, old PDAs that died grisly deaths (often involving a toilet for some reason), 5 ¼ floppies, Windows 3.1 disks, and old printer ribbons. Once in a while someone drags out a zip drive or even better a dot matrix printer. On one memorable day someone dragged out a beautiful Underwood 1930s typewriter. It was beautiful! Not exactly an electronic component, but hey, it’s a precursor relic as far as I’m concerned – that invaluable archeological evidence of the evolution of word processing. We found a home for the typewriter and it’s proudly on display in someone’s house.

Sometimes I’m staggered by the sheer amount of stuff shoved into a closet. It happens when a customer is downsizing and moving to a smaller place. Out comes everything – and I mean everything. Once I found an old Coleco Adam – now that was a treasure. We sold that to someone for a nice price. I was surprised to find collectors out there – the unit was pristine and had the manuals, box and all sorts of extras. She drove home with cash jingling in her pocket and a grin. I don’t think she told her son how much she made off it. She simply stated “I warned him I was getting rid of everything, his loss” That’s rare, usually everything heads to recycling.

The last foray into the past dredged up this:

Old 10mps NIC

Note the ripping speed of 10 mbps. I remember installing many GVC cards, including this particular one. Can’t remember which company, but one butchered the manual translation so badly, I kept it for years. The schematics were even backwards. It was always an adventure. While taking this photo, I flashed onto the 14.4 bps modem I bought decades ago – for a short while I was the fastest dial up in the neighbourhood. I could download a megs worth of data faster than anyone else. And no kids, we didn’t stream video. That was a sci fi notion.

I look forward to the next Cabinet of Curiosities.

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