Why did I buy a gadget I know I'll never use?

Just put it under the desk along with all the others

Something for the Weekend, Sir? It could get steamy in here. I have stripped off the layers and am now looking to turn up the heat. I’m looking forward to an afternoon of delightful tenderness with plenty of oohs and aahs.

I certainly don’t want things to be chewy.

Preparing the Brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner is always a challenge. The Dabbs household happens to like sprouts but as a much-derided minority group, we only eat them at Christmas.

I’m told it is possible to buy sprouts pretty much any time throughout the year but there is a much stronger reason why we avoid them for the other 364 days. In order for sprouts to be edible, even to we few who can appreciate the finer qualities of an overpriced green vegetable that tastes like a cross between warmed-up Irn-Bru and a donkey’s fart, they cannot be fried, boiled or microwaved. They must be steamed.

I have a steamer, a damn good one. It’s in the voluminous corner cupboard under the sink. However, the cupboard is choc-full of kitchen gadgets that I rarely, if ever, use. And for reasons I cannot explain, the steamer is always right at the back, behind everything else.

So it’s never a simple matter of retrieving the steamer when I need it. First, I have to negotiate my way past the nesting funnels, assorted measuring jugs, salad spinners and multitudinous cheese graters. Then I’m on to the big boys: the pasta mill and matching ravioli trays, the stack of ceramic Crème Catalane dishes and the ice cream churner.

I can just about reach the steamer but it has seen me first and darted behind the yoghurt maker.

That bloody yoghurt maker: how I hate it. Sitting smugly in pristine condition (just one user, never used) in the far corner, its dimensions are such that it is too wide and too tall to fit through the cupboard door. It must be tilted into a very particular angle, while being artfully compressed in space and time, before it can be manipulated precariously out of the way.

I wish I could describe the cupboard under the sink as an Aladdin’s Cave of culinary tools. In reality, it’s like miniature version of one of those houses featured in Hoarding Buried Alive. It is a bonsai hoard.

So it’s only having emptied the entire contents of the cupboard that I can finally retrieve the steamer. By this time, the kitchen floor is piled high with cooking tools and gadgets that I have bought or been given but never used. My head is reeling, I have trodden on a salad spinner I never knew I had, and my left hand is still bleeding from a vicious and unprovoked attack from the fucking spiralizer.

Little surprise, then, that it’s a ritual I am prepared to undertake only once a year. What amazes me is why the only device in this forlorn cupboard that I ever want to use shuffles its way to the back from one Christmas to the next. Just imagine if your washing machine did this.

A similar problem blights my home office.

Without noticing, I seem to have acquired a lot of tech gadgets that I thought might be useful but weren’t. Because they are useless, most of them are crammed into plastic storage tubs under the office’s three desks. I cannot fit my legs comfortably under any of them.

It goes beyond the classic hoarding curse from which everyone who works in IT tend to suffer. Yes, I have lots of old cables and PDAs and crap that really ought to be taken to the recycling dump but haven’t. That’s normal. But there’s stuff in those boxes that really shouldn’t have been bought, borrowed or stolen in the first place, much of it of unknown provenance.

For example, what prevailed upon me to acquire an external USB floppy disk drive is beyond me. I must have thought it would be massively useful. Except that I rid myself of every 3.5in floppy many years ago in a fit of CD-R-induced pique. Even if I hadn’t, the drive appears to be compatible with no floppy disk format known on this planet and, get this, requires proprietary USB drivers that are themselves compatible with no operating system younger than 15 years.

And that Wi-Fi webcam, what was that for? It would make sense if it was part of a concerted effort to install security cameras but no such intelligent thought entered my head. I simply saw it sitting unused in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet at a client’s office, and I asked if I could take it home with me. He said yes and I did.

Children do this with lost dogs. I do it with IT gadgets.

When I got home, I opened my backpack, took out the webcam and stared at it in wonder... wondering, in fact, what the flying fuck I was going to do with it. So it immediately got stuffed into one of the storage tubs under my desk, where it has remained ever since.

I known it is still there because I had to move it aside in a hunt for one of my Ethernet hubs this week. I couldn’t find it, of course, so I’ll probably buy another and only then will the others turn up. I now have so many Ethernet hubs that I could probably operate a corporate network from my spare bedroom.

And there’s the rest, including in no particular order:

  • USB hubs of the wrong speed that never have enough ports to be any use whatsoever.
  • Five varieties of Firewire cables with different kinds of connectors, even though I dispensed with my last Firewire device when my kids were still in nappies.
  • 10 miles of telephone cable, purchased for reasons that escaped me before I even reached the till at Maplin but bought it anyway.
  • iPad adapters for USB, SD, HDMI and DVI... all for Apple’s old pre-Lightning connector that none of my iPads have.
  • Spare mobile phone handsets “just in case”. I have even collected spare-spare handsets in case the spare handsets stop working. You never know.
  • Countless capacitive styluses for touch-screen devices. I might have 20 of these. Or it might be 20 million, I’m not sure. What I do know is that I actually bought some of them with my own money. Why?
  • A Hushme. Don’t ask.
  • Laptop sleeves, cases and carry-alls. I have so many of these that I’ve had to consign most of them to the attic.

That reminds me, I’m going on a trip soon. Can I find the right padded travel bag for my laptop? Can I buggery. It’s worked its way to the back of the attic where the hairiest spiders live, watching me with their beady eyes and chuckling malevolently. As I say, just imagine if your washing machine did this.

Ho hum, I’d better buy a new one.

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Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He wants it to be known that he has never purchased, borrowed or reviewed a Hushme. He included it in his list for comic effect only. If you’re making your own list of useless tech gadgets, feel free to include all IoT devices, every single one of them.

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