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Cheapest, oldest, slowest part fixed very modern Mac

Making different generations of tech work in harmony sometimes requires a strange dance

On Call With Friday upon us, the drumbeat of the working week is slowing. But we still have enough energy to bring you another instalment of On Call, The Register’s weekly reader-contributed tale of out-of-tune tech support tales.

This week meet "Ringo" who runs a music technology specialism as part of a music degree at a very prestigious university.

"In addition to teaching I often have to flip into tech mode to fill the gaps when our tech support is unavailable," Ringo told On-Call.

His IT skills became necessary when the university decided to upgrade its modest postproduction studio. That job involved installation of the infamous “cheese grater" Mac Pro, ProTools and Logic Digital Audio Workstation software, and a vintage hardware sampler.

"Hardware samplers were on the way out, but our AKAI S6000 had a USB port which allowed remote control of the machine, so it made life very easy," Ringo explained. So it was decided the vintage machine should stay.

Macs, after all, have USB ports. Surely making Apple's finest talk to the Akai should be a doddle?

You can guess what happened next. Everything worked beautifully – other than the Akai, which wouldn’t work at all.

"I tried everything and scoured every forum to no avail," Ringo wrote. "Eventually I had a hunch: maybe the Mac Pro's USB was too fast for the sampler's proprietary USB card?

"I was determined to test my theory and scoured the local discount stores for cheap USB hubs."

That raid yielded three hubs for under five Euros!

"My plan was to find one with a slow bridging chip. I 'auditioned' the hubs with the computer–sampler setup, and bingo – one of them reined in the Mac Pro's blindingly fast USB speeds sufficiently."

Ringo said the system "worked flawlessly after the 'upgrade' and for years after that we marvelled at that incredibly important €1 slow 'little USB hub that could' with its tacky blue plastic case."

Have you found retro fix for a modern tech problem? If so, click here to send On Call an email and we hope to make music with your story on a future Friday. ®

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