When People Over-Estimate the Value of Old Tech

Rant May 6, 2019
📝Updated (11/01/2021)

My first article of 2019 and it's already May. Just goes to show I really don't have much going on of any interest to anyone at the moment. Still one thing I did do lately was start my bi-annual backup of my computers which is easier said than done when you're as lazy as I am. To cut a long convoluted and largely boring story short, I ended up with a 26GB archive on a USB flash drive and needed to get it on my PowerMac G4, which only has USB1.1 ports built-in.

Cue an estimated transfer time of nine hours (even though it should be closer to 5). Fuck that. Then I remembered that I did have a USB 2.0 PCI card that came with the Mac when I bought it used, but I never actually needed it so I removed it and stuck it in a draw somewhere. Now I need it, which is annoying because it turns out that having kept hold of it for all those years (well over 9 of them) last year I finally decided I was never going to actually use it, so I binned it.


It just goes to show that my tendency to hoard old electronics can pay dividends sometimes and this would have been one such occasion had I not decided it was 'silly' to hoard something I was never going to use. But anyway, on eBay I went and got a replacement for a fiver. Quick tip; it's a generic 'no name' PCI USB 2.0 card that has a NEC chipset, so should work fine in Mac OS 10.5.8 without any need for a driver install. Other cards with other chipsets have a tendency to not work properly or cause sleep failures on these old Macs because the driver support built-in to OS X is rather picky (or non-existent).

Having said that, even NEC chipsets can have problems apparently, so I won't know for sure if it works properly until I actually get it, but the general rule of thumb is NEC chipsets are the way to go. I'll avoid the obvious fact that in the time it took me to buy another card, get it delivered and install it, I could have just let the computer run for 9 hours to transfer the file. But then I'd still be without USB 2.0 on the PowerMac, which probably will come in handy once again in the next 10 years, or whenever I do another backup. The bigger question is, how the hell did I do the backup last year?

Anyway while I was on eBay looking for a replacement I came across a Sonnet Allegro USB 2.0 PCI card, in original box and looking a bit worse for wear. But I had to let out a little grunt of amusement when I saw the silly cunt listing it wanted not 5 quid like I paid for my generic card, not 10 quid which is probably at most was worth and not even 25 Pounds Stirling which is probably what an idiot would allow themselves to pay for it. No, they wanted £50 for it. Fifty fucking quid. For a PCI, USB, 2.0 spec card. I mean there's optimistic pricing and then there's that. It's all well and good putting high prices on old electronics if you think it's worth that price, but what you think it's worth isn't necessarily what it's actually worth.

A PCI USB 2.0 card that's a 15+ year old design (I believe it was released in 2002 with perhaps marginal hardware revisions while it was available over the years). Who's going to want it? Well yes, I did for a start (though not at that price obviously) and anyone else with an old Mac needing USB 2.0 (basically any Mac released before September 2003) for whatever reason and perhaps a user of Windows XP (how quaint) though the chances are if you do use Windows XP and your PC is newer than April 2002 it has USB 2.0 already. OK so it's a niche market these days, but does that really mean you can command a high price for an old bit of shit? No it does not. And the reason why is because you can get a brand new generic card that does the same job for a fiver!

OK, if it was unique, say a top-of-the-line card that was the best of the best of the best when it was new and you actually couldn't find an alternative because there weren't any alternatives like it, then yes, in that situation it'd be worth putting a high price tag on it. But not that thing. Not a PCI USB 2.0 card! Why would I pay ten times the price of a generic card for something that isn't even in mint condition? Yea, exactly, I wouldn't. And I didn't. I wouldn't be surprised if no one else does either.

Update (14/05/2019):

For anyone interested in doing the same thing (i.e buying a generic PCI 2.0 card for your old Mac), the card I got last week works really well; it's has a NEC D720101F1 chipset. All I had to do was install it into the Mac in the usual way and since OS 10.5.8 recognised it immediately due to having the necessary drivers already included it worked perfectly. First thing I tried was sleeping the Mac with a USB drive attached via the card and at first I thought I'd bought a dud as it appeared to suffer the sleeping issue I mentioned before, but then after about twenty seconds it did finally go to sleep and woke up again when requested, though I got an error about the drive being removed (I can live with that sort of shortcoming to be honest).

Update (26/07/2020):

Yes, the pricey PCI USB 2.0 card I spent rather a lot of time moaning about and then claimed I wouldn't be surprised if no one would ever buy, is still listed on eBay. I know it's the same one too as I remember the seller's name as well as the damage to the box in one of the pictures. I looked it up out of interest and I can see the seller has decided to lower the price to… £40 (well £39.99 but I'm rounding it up because that's what intelligence is for). Generous of them to knock a tenner off it isn't it? Maybe next year the seller will knock another tenner off the list price and if they keep up that trend they might finally sell it in 2022.

I considered linking to the listing, but I decided not to as I don't want to give the seller any undue advertisement or attention (hah, the irony). It's easy enough to find yourself anyway but just to show that I'm not making any of this up, this time I will show you a screenshot:

Optimistic pricing at its best.

Update (11/01/2021):

Looks like either some numpty finally bought it or they gave up trying to sell it on eBay; the listing isn't there any more, though there are several others for sale now all at ridiculous prices, so it's clear the trend for overpricing this piece of old junk will continue long after I've no fucks left to give (which are running out right about… now).