USB 3.0 musings

So… USB 3.0 is coming out.  What is it, and why do we care?  Well, basically, under ideal conditions, computers will talk to USB devices up to 10 times faster than our current generation of USB devices.  Many of these devices will also take less power to run.  (We here at CableWholesale also care because the cables are going to need to be designed a bit differently, with extra wires inside to handle all that data.)  I’m not going to get into all the technical particulars, since I don’t want your eyes to glaze over.  Basically, starting next year, we’ll have stuff that runs faster than today’s stuff, and uses less juice.

I have to admit, I like simple technological advances that I can explain to my Uncle Dominic.

Trade Show Excess

I returned from a trade show a few weeks ago, and I’m reminded again how foolish some marketing endeavors can be.  They had a meeting area set up with tables and chairs.  When I stopped there to take a break, I noticed that each table had been sprinkled with half-a-dozen of what turned out to be poker chips, encouraging me to visit a particular company at a particular booth number.

For some reason, this irritated me.  While I’m all for the idea of getting foot traffic to a trade show booth, this seemed like an excessive waste.  Unlike, for example, a pen with a company name on it, this trinket was totally useless in the real world.  In fact, since it referenced the booth number and year, it would be totally useless after the show ended!  It’s not even like the company could reuse these things.  So, once they’ve (hopefully) done their job, into the trash they will go.

Will a few thousand poker chips cause the planet to self-destruct.  Of course not.  Were there better ways to spend their money and get traffic?  You bet.

This was just one small example of the madness that is the trade show marketing industry.  I have to wonder how effective it really is at the end of the day.

Overengineered cables?

… and while we’re on the subject of overpriced cables, I might as well rant about their close cousins, overengineered cables.  I’ve seen all kinds of nonsense here.  One of the most egregious things I’ve seen recently is a six-foot HDMI cable with silver-coated wires inside.

Now, don’t get me wrong… silver is an excellent electrical conductor, make no mistake.  On a really long run (say, 100 feet), it could even be useful.  But, and this is important, on a short cable like that, it adds no value whatsoever. And, last I checked, silver was a kind of expensive metal, you know?  There have been plenty of independent tests out there that show that pretty much any standard copper-based cable will get the job done.

Bottom line: as with anything, there’s a law of diminishing returns.  Once a cable works perfectly, anything else you attempt to do to it to make it better than perfect is just hype, designed to get you, the consumer, to part with more money.

“You had a good run…”

A couple of years ago, I was at the Consumer Electronics Show.  We were featuring our 50 foot component video cable, which at that time we were offering at a retail price of $49.95.  Needless to say, that was generating a fair amount of interest.  So along comes this brute who, upon hearing our price, proceeds to berate me, accusing us of “ruining the market!”  He stated that he was able to sell long component video cables for $300.00.

For once in my life, I didn’t know what to say.  I had no words for him, at least on the outside. What I wanted to say was, “Look, fella, you had a good run.  But it’s time to wake up.  Those days are gone!”

Well, those days aren’t completely gone, as there’s still plenty of businesses out there who will happily try to sell you an average product at ridiculous, even — dare i say it — monstrous prices.  Just walk into any major electronics retail store and see for yourself.  I’ve heard all kinds of reasons why logic and common sense have flown out the window and otherwise intelligent people have found themselves $300 poorer; the most common line of reasoning goes something like, “Well, I just spent $2000.00 on this TV, so of course the cables to go with it need to be ridiculously overpriced!”

Of course, the cables do work, and some people will even cling to the belief that their TV’s picture is even improved by this $300 ripoff.  What can you do?  People will see what they expect to see.

Folks, cables aren’t magical.  If you plant a $300 cable in the ground, it will not, I repeat, not grow into a beanstalk that reaches to the sky.  While there’s no substitute for a good quality cable, common sense should also tell you that a few pounds of copper in a plastic jacket doesn’t cost $300 to make.  Hold on to your senses, and hold on to your money.