We have a cable problem. I'm not talking about our TV service, which is awesome (thanks DirecTV!) or the actual HDMI cables connecting our components (which are a giant mess, but whatever, they're all getting buried in the walls soon.
I'm talking about piles and piles of loose, often obsolete, connector cables that pile up in my (and, probably your) life over the years.
At first, I was able to put them all in a freezer bag. Then, I needed a shoebox. Finally, a 2x1x1 box from Amazon. And cables are popping out of it in every direction.
And yet, when I really, really needed an S-Video cable last year for capturing some video from an S-VHS player, I didn't have one. It's a mess that's getting on my wife's nerves - and it's a useless mess, seeing as I'm still buying cables for specific tasks! Clearly, I need to come up with a solution.
But first, we need to analyze the problem. Why do I have so many 2-foot cables?
I'm going to blame (and thank) the rapid advancement in cable tech during the last 10 years. We went from coax to composite over the course of a decade, and then from composite to s-video to component to digital coax to TOSlink optical to DVI to HDMI, in about 8 years, it seemed. (And there were parallel cables for audio and video, most of the time.)
(And so many variations - red-white-yellow male/male, red-white-yellow-to-mini, everything to USB... I think I have a composite-to-SCSI in this box. Who knows when I might need it? Who knows what I ever could have needed it for?)
Now, with high-speed HDMI, it's one cable to rule them all. And HDMI has been king of the hill for quite a long time, relatively speaking. 3D video AND 7-channel audio in one digital cable. But I spent all that money on the old stuff, I can't possibly throw it away, right?
Wrong. For most of these cables, I need precisely one connector. Here's my new "cable box" inventory (admittedly, still huge. But all with a semi-plausible use):
- 2 red/white composite audio cables. They're by Monster, back when "cable quality" allegedly mattered. I assume that they cost an obscene amount. They are higher quality than most red/whites, and since I'm probably going to have a 300-CD player in my downstairs behind-the-bar stereo, (don't judge. I may put a cassette player or turntable in too.) I may as well hold onto these. If they don't get used in that setup, they're gone.
- 2 TOSlink optical audio cables. I used to have a half-dozen of these in my stereo setup, until AppleT/iTunes and Spotify took over all of our music needs via wi-fi and HDMI. That said, maybe the downstairs CD player has an optical out. Maybe I'll get a minidisc player or something. These are also on the chopping block for next round.
- 1 Sabrent video-capture-to-USB cable. Why is the video capture market dominated by these random cheap devices that only work with the cable-maker's own proprietary capture software? I used this last year when capturing VHS sources for a 30 minute video for my parents' anniversary, and it was a PC-only device-driver nightmare. I fidgeted with the Control Panel for about 2 hours, restarted at least 5 times. I'm still not sure how I got it to work, but suddenly, the device showed up (as a scanner or some such), and my video source was in the software window. I'm keeping that old Dell forever if it can still run this one piece of software.
- 1 yellow-red-white composite cable. I had a stunning amount of these (more than 10), most of which were in the original factory twist-ties. I assume that they shipped with every electronics product I bought from 1997 through 2008. I'm keeping one, just on the off chance I need to connect some oddball old video player (VHS, or something portable) at some point.
- 1 yellow-red-white to mini cable. Just in case I have a portable DVD player or something lying around, that only outputs from a mini port. Or, in case I have a computer that only accepts video through a mini port. Really, not sure what this one does... but we'll keep it just in case.
- 1 mini-to-mini audio connector. The one time it comes in handy is when you want to hook up a headset out to a stereo AUX in. Which happens, essentially, ONLY in the car when someone else wants to play you something from their phone. I'll throw this cable in the glovebox.
- 1 Component Video cable. My least favorite video cable generation. The bulkiest thing ever. They used to cost a lot of money. Three separate cables, one for each color. In fact, I'm rethinking this...
- 0 Component Video cables. If it really comes down to needing one, I will buy another. In fact, I'll go out of my way to make sure it never comes down to needing one. I'm not storing this giant thing. It throws off my whole "organization" thing.
- 1 S-Video cable. Separate chroma and luma! The one that started it all. (I mean, after composite.) I just bought this thing, and I'm keeping it. And while I'm at it, does anyone have a working S-VHS player that they're willing to sell? You'd be surprised how difficult they are to find these days.
- 1 CAT-6 ethernet patch cable. I mean, you never know.
- 2 coaxial cables. The old warhorse. Useful for one function only - getting the cable signal from your wall to your DirecTV box or cable modem.
- 1 USB to female-USB cable. Why do I have this? Is it really just a 6-inch USB extension cord? Why not just get a slightly longer USB cable?
And then, admittedly, some single-use specialty stuff.
- 1 balanced microphone cable. I used to have a band, I've sold everything except my Shure SM-58, but I'm hoping to use GarageBand at some point. I'm still not sure what I'd use this cable for - presumably, there's a "balanced-to-USB" cable out there that I'd use - but for now, it stays.
- 1 weird female-composite/S-Video-to-proprietary-videocard-port cable. I think this goes to the ATI "All In Wonder" videocard from my late-1990's Dell. I briefly used it last year on the video capture project, but gave up at some point. It's purple, it has a "docking station" type box on one side, and I'm relatively sure I could never find another one. For now, it stays.
So, 15 cables, more or less. I managed to throw out a ton of old-timey HDMI cables with the giant ferrite cores at the end, a few TOSlink cables with big square ports, a USB-to-MiniB cable that I'm pretty sure worked with an ancient (and long-ago-eBayed) Olympus digital camera, and a few component cables that were taking up way too much space.