GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

What's in your closet: The electronic clutter that surrounds us

I try to be a very organized person. It’s a skill you simply must hone to run a busy test lab on tight deadlines, or your career will be a very short one. But this week the GCN Lab is moving from its current home in Falls Church, Va., to a brand new facility in nearby Tysons Corner.

The miles involved are pretty small, fewer than 10 I think, but moving an entire lab 100 feet is almost the same Herculean task as moving it 1,000 miles. And moving is a great way to find out that you’re not quite as organized as you thought.

I’m amazed at the amount of electronic clutter we’ve found in the dark corners of the lab. We've come across everything from UPS devices that blew up to IP telephony systems that came in for review but were never sent back because their owners went out of business. Odd testing tools like an oscilloscope and a fish tank (for immersion tests) suddenly showed up alongside a hair dryer (for testing line-power during fluxes), a data vault that was literally run over by an armored vehicle (the data is still intact, though the frame has seen better days), a burned-out computer emitting a strong smell of ozone thanks to a dramatically failed overclocking experiment, and some type of electronic device with wooden (yes, wooden) sides that looks like it came from the Eisenhower administration, and whose dials look suspiciously like it’s grinning evilly at us.

Nobody can remember what that wooden-sided device does or why it came into the lab. We are currently daring each other to plug it in and see what happens.

Looking at my beautiful lab right now, it seems like I should be sifting through the rubble searching for survivors with a rescue dog instead of trying to organize any type of detailed test plan.

So I’ve not written very much this week. Revising Albert Einstein or lamenting the fate of the HP TouchPad tablet will have to wait for another day.

But I did have a thought. I’m pretty amazed that my organized workspace almost seems like a facade now. I’m wondering how many of us have a lot more electronic baggage than we think. From dead fax machines that never quite went away to busted printers to reams of paper-based reports that will never be read again (and may not have ever been read to begin with), the sheer volume of junk is staggering. Perhaps the modern workplace is more prone to this type of thing?

So let me know what you think. Look around your office and see if there are things that probably should have been removed a long time ago, electronic or otherwise. And no, your cubicle mate doesn’t count!

But if you find some odd things, let us know about them, and I’ll see you all next week from our newly organized lab. And this time, I really, really mean to keep it that way.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

Reader Comments

Fri, Oct 7, 2011 John Raleigh NC

Here is an idea: When Some device is replaced or not used for various reasons. Place a LAST USED DATE on the device, then take to the city dump all items (with a last used date) greater than three years old.

Thu, Oct 6, 2011 Laura NoVA

Sounds like the computer room in my house. We recently took quite a few odds and ends to an electronic recycling event. And then I found a working 80GB Iomega external hard drive. I guess it will have to go next time.

Thu, Oct 6, 2011 Mark Jaeger Michigan

I remember storing boxes of ComputerWorld issues in a data closet back in 1987. They were still there when I left in 1992. I wonder whether anybody has removed them since?

Thu, Oct 6, 2011

It is not clutter, it is spare parts. That is my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 Mike

Our downtown mailroom has eleven copy machines in it. Nine of them have red sickters on them and are not to be used because something is wrong with them. So everyone has to use the two that work. They won't fix the broken machines till the new ones wear out I guess, and they won't get rid of them either. New employees ALWAYS try to use one of the broken ones.

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