Am I a tech hoarder?

You have probably heard—or worse, experienced—stories of elderly men & women living amidst huge piles of debris: newspapers, clothes, food. Today I learned about a reality TV show called Hoarders where viewers can be duly shocked at how some people choose to live, presumably to assure themselves that their own piles of debris aren’t so bad considering. Following that logic comes an article in ITWorld about tech hoarders: geeks and nerds who keep piles of long-obsolete equipment, either because it’s still in perfectly good working order (you never know when you might need it), or for spare parts. Some of the photos are quite amusing, particularly the lamp stand made out of a pile of rack-mount Linux servers.

This got me thinking about whether I may be a tech hoarder. I’ve decided I’m not, with a few caveats. I do have lots of cables, but that’s a hard-learned lesson. Any tech job requires at least a few cables, and a missing $5 cable can hold up a $100,000 project. Back in 1988, my networking teacher told me “You’re not a network engineer, you’re a cable puller. If the cable doesn’t work, nothing works.” So I’ve always hung on to cables.

And yes, dear reader, I still have my Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III that I bought in 1980, and my original 512K Macintosh (“and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984″), along with their software on 5″ and 3” floppy disks. Maybe I thought they’d be teaching props, or eventually, museum pieces. I think they will eventually be museum pieces, but eventually is probably still a long time from now.

Hoarding, of course, is not the same thing as collecting. I plead guilty to collecting on several counts: chiefly books, but I still have all my LPs (remember those?) and I now own four accordions. A collection may not always be tidy, but it is lovingly cared for, and the collector knows exactly where a given item can be found. I shall wax eloquently on collecting in another blog post.

So what’s my next step? I’m getting rid of some stuff tomorrow at an electronics recycling event in Berkeley, organized by my wife Arlene Baxter on behalf of the Berkeley Association of Realtors. In the pile so far is an old television, a dead PC and a bunch of old cables and DC converters. Ok, so I am getting rid of a few cables. I’m pretty sure I’ll never need them again. I think.