The Hoarder’s Dilemma

Nov 27, 2012 No Comments by

Tech Fogey has initiated an audit.  How many electronic gizmos do we have, both in daily use and abandoned in boxes?  The more we delved, the worse things became.  It’s already embarrassing and there might well be forgotten contraptions that will only emerge when the loft is properly explored and thus make the accumulation truly heinous.  And just so the excess seems even more ridiculous than it otherwise would Mrs Fogey’s electronic bits and bobs have been included.

As we were adding some final details to this initial post one of those ‘well, who’d have thunk it?’ page-filler surveys appeared in the press that suggested the average man has £18.18 in loose change kicking around the house in dishes, jars, drawers and oversized wine bottles. According to the Lloyds TSB ‘nothing better to do’ survey this forgotten coinage totals £317.5 million.  If Tech Fogey had the wherewithal to expand our gadget audit nationwide we’re confident the results would boggle all functioning organs.  It’s what blokes are like; not so much hoarders as unwilling to see once-cherished manhood-enhancers abandoned in a skip or bashed to bits at the council dump.  Ebay?  Too much of a palaver.  Which is why retired gizmos quietly nestle under the eaves, hiding.  The day women willingly enter lofts we’re all in trouble.



Three.  An LG 50PV350T Full HD 50-inch plasma in the living room and a Sony Bravia 40-inch HD Ready LCD in the office/dump.  In the loft there is a 42-inch Panasonic plasma display that is not really a TV but a monitor since it has no internal tuner, analogue or digital.  It also has piss-poor screen resolution – only 480 horizontal lines; fewer than the 576 lines of the 32-inch Samsung cathode ray tube (CRT) monstrosity it replaced.  There is much bleating in the media about the parlous state of the economy but many capital items are soooo much cheaper now than they were ten years ago, TVs being a case in point.  The Panasonic plasma panel was designed to be mounted on the wall of, say, a shop to display gumph channelled to it from a PC, hence it had a 15 pin VGA (video graphics array) input and nothing else.  To send a signal to it from a VCR, DVD player or TV tuner-box the relevant inputs of the day – SCART and red/blue/green composite – had to be bought and installed post-purchase.  And we had to cough up for a wall mounting bracket too.  Total cost, nearly £2,000.  Ouch.  Fast forward 12 years and the LG 50-inch Full HD plasma with as much connectivity as we’ll ever need and Freeview HD built-in cost a shade over £500; much less, even, than the 32-inch Samsung CRT TV.  The newer model LG 50PA650T is now under £500 at Amazon. In its late Eighties day the widescreen Samsung was considered gigantic but given that TV screen size is measured diagonally, corner to corner, you can see how a 32-inch, 16:9 ratio screen will seem smaller than a standard 32-inch 4:3 ratio screen, probably because it is.  So keen were we to have as massive a televisual experience as possible, the extension on the back of Fogey Towers was cabled to take a ceiling-mounted projector.  But projectors hate light and keeping it out of the room just to ‘watch the telly’ would have caused more pain than the projector gave pleasure. So our living room is not vying with Screen 3 at the Odeon. One day we will have a basement…



Two.  One Toshiba connected to the Sony in the office/dump and one Panasonic NV F65B (broken) in its box in the loft.  The Toshiba came with a wife attached, as did a CRT TV that has long since been dumped (we kept the wife). The Panasonic is from the late Eighties and cost the best part of £400.  It had Nicam stereo when this was a progressive novelty and all settings – time, date, recordings, were made via a plastic card strewn with barcodes that were scanned using a light point on the corner of the remote.  It worked faultlessly for many years and then, one day, didn’t.  TF can’t repair it and could waste days trying to find someone who could and still not find that person.  And, in a cathartic-but-sad day several years ago we took all our tapes to the tip.  Hundreds of hours of TV series and movies, painstakingly recorded and hoarded.  Precious moments rendered worthless by time and progress.  So if the Panasonic was resuscitated there wouldn’t be much to watch.  Even charity shops won’t accept donations of video tapes any more.  Many Fogies fritter away their lives in a nostalgic fug, tinkering with classic cars for example and TF can appreciate the associated romance of such potterings.  It’s difficult to imagine the same misty-eyed reverence being lavished on VHS videotapes, which, compared with their moderns equivalents – digital download or Blu-ray disc – are so demonstrably shite you wonder how we put up with them for so long.  Didn’t know any better, of course.


DVD Players

Pioneer DV 575A – spookily similar to all other silver DVD players

Four.  A Toshiba ‘something or other’, a Pioneer DV 575A and a Sharp DV SV97H.  The first two are region-free which means they will play discs bought in the US and everywhere else.  The Pioneer is hooked up to the Sony TV and the Toshiba and Sharp are in boxes in the loft.  The resolution of a standard DVD is 576 horizontal lines, which, not coincidentally, is the resolution of a CRT TV screen.  Some later DVD players and most Blu-ray disc players will ‘upscale’ the quality of a standard DVD so that if you play it on a High Definition (HD) TV it won’t look as though the screen has been smeared with Vaseline and that all darkness is actually green, not black.  And DVD is short for Digital Versatile Disc, not Digital Video Disc.  Makes no sense but few things in tech ever do.  The fourth machine is a Panasonic DMR ES20D which is a DVD player and recorder and a Freeview tuner.  At least we think it will pick up Freeview, never having tested the possibility.  It has a pre-Freeview digital tuner from the days when you had to pay to subscribe to services such as Top-Up TV.  Remember that?  There was a relatively short window between DVDs becoming mainstream and initiating the need for recordable DVDs and hard disc drive recorders arriving.  Having a physical copy of a recorded TV programme now seems almost quaint.  Even recording onto a hard disc will eventually become redundant as on-demand and catch-up services proliferate.


Laserdisc Player

Once loved, now an embarrassment

One.  A Pioneer CLD D515. Before the CD-sized DVD came along 12-inch laserdiscs were the cutting edge of home entertainment. But they owed more to vinyl LPs than CDs because they were, for the most part, analogue in both sound and vision.  Also, somewhat tragically, the resolution of such discs is only 440 horizontal lines, so they will look utterly shite if displayed on a High Def  TV that can display 720 horizontal lines (HD Ready) or 1080 horizontal lines (Full HD).  And you could only get 60 minutes on each side, so at some point during a movie you’d have to flip the disc over.  TF has only four laserdiscs: Jaws, 2001 – a Space Odyssey, Chinatown and Blade Runner.  All great films and all rendered far prettier on Blu-ray disc.  The CLD D515 is where it’s been for many years: boxed and lofted.


Blu-ray Player

One.  Sony BDP S580.  It was cheap-ish at around £100 and has wireless connectivity built-in, which means we can watch BBC iPlayer through it.  Well, sometimes.  The Fogey router is upstairs, the TV and its companions downstairs.  Very occasionally there was sufficient requisite oomph (getting technical here) to stream video from the Internet, via our Netgear Range Max router to the BDP S580 and thence to the TV.  Most of the time we were watching a frozen screen with that swirly bastard thing in the middle.  So we dug out two homeplugs (they turn your house’s electrical circuit into a network), connected the necessary ethernet cables and now have a much better, more reliable connection.  However,  Channel 5’s catch-up service uses Adobe Flash and the BDP S580 refuses to upgrade to the latest version of Flash so we can’t watch anything on 5-On Demand.  Grrr.



One.  A Movie Time that has an integral DVD drive so there’s no need to hook it up to a separate player.  It’s not HD but since it was a gift it would be churlish to grumble. One significant drawback with all projectors is connecting them to a decent sound source.  If you have a surround sound system with your TV, chances are there’s an AV amp somewhere in the mix, usually under the TV.  Projectors need to be a distance away from the screen (or white wall, which is all we’ve ever had) even if they are ‘short throw’ machines.  This means you’ll need a pretty long sound cable trailing along the floor.  We know that most projector fiends have all their wiring scootled away in the walls or ceiling void but if you don’t want your living room ceiling dominated by a mini space ship and only dust off the proj for special occasions, said long cable will be required.  A Fogey compromise involved a Griffin Evolve iPod dock which has re-chargeable wireless speakers.  The Evolve base station sits with the projector and is cabled to it, while the speakers sit beside the picture on the wall.  Not the highest of fi but it does also mean we can project a movie with decent sound anywhere there’s a power source and a white wall.  Fully charged, the speakers will keep singing for six hours, which is plenty.



Three.  Actually, there are four.  There is a Compaq Presario 1246 (we think…) squirreled away in a storage container in Suffolk along with a ton of other stuff that we should either sell or dump.  Letting go; difficult, especially when you know how much you paid for things.  The Compaq cost nearly £800 from Costco many moons ago.  This was the pre-wireless era and before broadband had spread its tentacles across the land.  Dial-up and the attendant nerve-shredding connection squeals were all we knew.  Glacially slow to do anything – even opening a Word document was a paint-drying experience – it’s only purpose in later life was to tempt us into reaching for the hammer and then have the self-discipline to resist.  A useful life lesson that has saved its subsequent siblings on many occasions.  The retinue of current, in-use devices includes a Toshiba Satellite P-100, Dell Inspiron 1370 and an HP Compaq 2510p.  All are getting on a bit.  The Toshiba has a 17-inch screen, has only recently been upgraded to Windows 7 and uses an Intel Centrino Duo processor.  It weighs a ton (just under 8lbs) and the ageing battery, that struggled even when new, now barely lasts an hour; less if you thrash it by playing a DVD (which we can’t do anyway because the optical disc drive is knackered).  Laptops such as this were marketed as desktop replacement machines – too bulky to carry around all the time but a match for most desktops while taking up far less space than a tower/keyboard/monitor combo. It also cost nearly £800 from good old Costco.  The Dell we won by making up the numbers in a Trusted Reviews team at a pre-Christmas pub quiz hosted by Intel.  The TR boys weren’t really conversant with the slant of moral compass required for such events so TF had to spell it out for them: C.H.E.A.T. We did and we all won laptops. Result! Cosmic justice has subsequently been visited upon us, though.  The Dell’s screen cracked right across simply from the unit having been picked up with one hand while closed. Dell – cack build quality.  It was out of warranty and Dell customer services washed their hands of it.  We went online and found a replacement screen for £50 or so but after having fitted it (cue torrential cursing) all we had was a lit-but-grey screen.  A replacement was summoned but the result was the same. Now we are faced with spending another £100 to check the screen is ok and then to fit a new, internal connector cable that might or might not have been compromised during the screen fitting process.  The HP is Mrs Fogey’s work laptop.  When new in late 2007 it would have cost around £1,600.  It seems to have all the bits and bobs you’d want in terms of connectivity but is pre-HD, so there’s no HDMI socket (the Dell does have one of these which was handy when we wanted to hook it up to an HDTV to run BBC iPlayer in the early days before it had snuck into most current TV platforms – iPlayer is even on Sky+ now; there’s détente for you).  Mrs F tells me it’s infected with some lurgy and needs to be decommissioned a.s.a.p. so she can get herself a new one.  Waste – and the avoidance thereof – is a cherished but seemingly outdated Fogey principle.  We despise retailers who wedge their doors open during freezing weather, for example, thus rendering all the thermally efficient building materials used to build their snazzy premises utterly irrelevant.  It seems the HP laptop and its demise will add to the mountain of defunct electronic gizmos that must grow by Himalayan proportions every day if the deluge of new tat consumers hoover up is anything to go by.  Some people can chuck £1,600-worth in the bin.  Tech Fogey is not those people.  We’d fix it and keep using it to the very end, however bitter that may be.


Desktop PCs

Two.  Both dodos.  One has been disassembled; the monitor was donated to Fogey Sr, the keyboard gathers loft dust and the tower is wrapped in a bin bag to keep spiders out.  The other, an ancient HP Pavilion, sits under the Fogey desk doing not very much.  Powered by spit and rubber bands it wheezes into life by the time the working day is over. It’s hooked up to a Viewsonic monitor which should also double as an iPod dock and USB hub (the base has lots of USB inputs) but we’ve never quite managed to make either of those features actually do anything that could be considered ‘working’.


Computer Speakers

HK Soundsticks II. Yummy.

Two sets.  Both Harman-Kardon Soundsticks.  One is Gen 2, the other Gen 3.  Soundsticks are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, so snazzily pretty are they (as you can see from the snap).  One slight design flaw in the active sub – it’s a perfect insect trap.  Crane flies fall in, seduced by the unit’s warm, blue or white glow and there they remain, desiccated and decomposing.  All the Soundsticks need is a power source and a device which accepts a 3.5mm phono jack, so they could just as easily breathe life into the sounds on your iPad, iPhone, iPod or even TV.  If you fancy some, click here.



Two.  Both Mrs Fogey purchases.  She does a lot of typing and bought an Apple keyboard for the iPad 1 which only docks in portrait mode.  This, over time, became unacceptable. The iPad 2 was bought to go with a Brookstone cover-cum-keyboard which connects to the iPad via Bluetooth and so doesn’t need to be ‘docked’ via the charging input socket.  It wouldn’t have worked with the iPad 1, however. Now, though, the Brookstone has been ditched in favour of a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard that latches on to the iPad to form a shell-like carapace – its back mirroring the curved aluminium of the iPad.  Since the iPad arrived tablets have taken over the world, a reflection, perhaps, that passing the time in ever more engaging ways is the way we live now.


Audio Amplifier

One. NAD C315 BEE on long-term loan from a man in the hi-fi game who has even more plug-in detritus than we do, so much so that he pays through the nose for a storage unit in which to stash it all.  Having previously worked for a high-end manufacturer of audio-visual goodies he also finds himself the owner of an in-car audio system that would have retailed for the best part of £20k.  Except it’s not in a car any more; it’s in the storage unit.  Keeping it is a variation of the, ‘it’ll come in handy one day’ mantra common to so many Fogies.  Rather like the poor suckers selling a Bang and Olufsen Beovision 5 (over £12k when new in 2005) for £600 on ebay, he would realise but a fraction of the equipment’s value were he to sell it.  One day he might have a car worthy of a £20k sound system but there’s every chance that car will already have a fairly tasty sound system installed.  To fit it to any car would cost at least £1,000 in labour and sod’s law dictates said car would expire the following day and he’d then have to strip it all out.  TF feels the stabbing pain from sitting on the horns of his dilemma. And we don’t enjoy it.


Cassette Decks

Two. Both Harman Kardon TD 420.  On one the transport mechanism for the cassette tray is faulty, although it does succumb to a well-placed punch.  A useful feature is the TD 420’s ability to fast forward to the quiet moments between tracks and stop, momentarily, so you have a few seconds to play that track or whizz on to the next.  Compared with a CD player it is, of course, borderline Neolithic but those Eighties mix-tapes still need an outlet, not least to remind this Fogey of how little progression there has been in his musical tastes over the past 30 years.  Another cassette-related factor is that books on tape are usually pennies in a charity shop – much less than the equivalent digital download – and if you listen then re-donate you unburden yourself and do a bit for charidee.  It’s a win-win-win.


CD Player

One. Harman Kardon HD7725.  The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed a JBL/Harman Kardon predominance among our hi-fi separates.  We confess to an inside job – all part of the mutual back-scratching that goes on between journalism and PR.  The HD7725 is a weighty beast and when new in 1994 retailed for $849 – £530 at today’s exchange rate.  At one congregation of hi-fi buffs TF sat and watched while what looked for all the world like a bread board was placed under a CD player and then removed so the assembled techno-sages could discern any smidgen of sonic difference.  Which they claimed to be able to, of course.  TF was in default, non-plussed mode, thinking the CD player sounded pretty good either way, not least because of the catastrophically expensive amp and speakers that delivered the sound to our ears.  Anyway, the CD player was a HK HD7725.  It was very fine then and still is today.  If you fancy a bit of a giggle, click on this link, which will take you to a pdf of The Audio Critic from 1994.  Scroll to page 43 for an audiophile assessment of the HD7725.  It’s a hoot.


AV Receivers

Three.  One Harman Kardon AVR-130 and two HK AV100.  The latter two are currently somewhere being repaired.  To what end we’re not really sure.  When fully functional they sounded just peachy but one was a casualty (along with the answering machine) of some heavy-duty lightning and an output channel spontaneously died on the other.  They are receivers only because they have radio tuners built-in, a feature that is becoming less relevant as time marches on.


When the audit is complete  we’ll group items together in some sort of sensible order: computer-related gubbins, photo stuff, sound stuff, TV-type whatsits etc.

Still to be added:

Smartphones (4), Dumbphones (2), TV Tuners (2), Sat-Nav (1), Still Cameras (8), Video Cameras (2), iPods (4), Other digital music player (1), Speaker Docks (4), Subwoofers (5), Speakers (pairs of) (2), Speakers (5.1 surround) (3), Radios (4), Headphones (lots), Soundbar (1), Mini systems (3), Tuner (1), Turntable (1), Cassette Walkmans (2) and a smattering of miscellaneous bits and bobs.

We knew it would be a big job.  We didn’t realise quite how big.

And, frankly, we got as bored with this meandering drivel as you probably did if you’ve read this far.  We have lots of crap kicking around and it’s going nowhere.  We are idiots.  Nothing new.