As a tech support specialist, you really need to be prepared for all sorts of contingencies. On a recent visit to one of the offices to which I provide support, I happened to step into a section of cubicles just as several folks were complaining about the mess of computer cables under their desks. While I was trying to be nonchalant and go about my work, one of the women in the group commandeered my attention and asked me to explain why a technology that was designed to streamline business made such a mess of the workplace. She then pointed to the tangle of cables and powerstrips under and adjacent to her desk and challenged me, as a computer professional, to come up with an innovative way to organize the mess.
After getting approval for the project, along with a modest budget, I accepted the challenge and vowed to return within a week's time with an acceptable solution.
At the time, I was imagining that I'd solve the problem using the standard cable organizing devices such as plastic ties, cable clips, and wire looms. However, when I returned not only was I packing such standard fare, I also brought a bag full of unique cable organizers, including a product featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Collection called the Cable Turtle.
As I implemented my cable organization plan, I discovered that the Cable Turtle was both stylish and functional and really wowed my challenger as well as everyone else in the office. Considering how well everything turned out, I thought I would share what I learned and introduce you to some of the products that I used in my cable organization plan.
The Cable Turtle
As I mentioned, the most unique product I used in my cable organization plan was the Cable Turtle. This little device, which is described as a round thermoplastic rubber shell with a polypropylene joint at its center, is designed for those situations where you have a cable that is much longer than the distance you need to span—a very typical cause of the cable mess problem.
To use the Cable Turtle, you open the shell and wind the excess cable around the joint as shown in Figure A. You then simply close the shell and align the ends of the cable with the lip-like openings on either side, as shown in Figure B.
|Once you open the Cable Turtle’s shell, you wind the excess cable around the joint.|
|Once you finish winding the excess cable, you close the shell.|
The Cable Turtle comes in nine colors and two sizes: 3 �-inch and 2 �-inch. I discovered that the large one works great under the desk for larger cables, while the small one works great on the desktop for dealing with long keyboard or mouse cables, as shown in Figure C.
|The small Cable Turtle works great on the desktop.|
Now, while I first discovered the Cable Turtle on the Museum of Modern Art’s Online Store, they’re only available in the small size and in two colors from this store. I later found the Cable Turtle in both sizes and all nine colors from CableOrganizer.com. At CableOrganizer.com the small Cable Turtles sell for $6.99 a piece and the large ones sell for $9.99 a piece.
A similar alternative
If you feel that the Cable Turtle is too expensive, you’ll be interested in a very similar product called the Cable Roll-up Organizer from ACC Cables. The Cable Roll-up Organizer is available in three colors and sells for under $2.00 a piece.
As you know, cable ties aren’t really unique cable organization items, but they warrant a brief look here as they do provide a very functional solution to dealing with the mess of cables under the desk. And, doing so will allow me to spotlight a neat little tool that I discovered—the Cable Tie Tensioning Tool from Gardner Bender. As you can imagine, Gardner Bender isn’t the only company that makes such a tool, but you can find this one at your local home improvement store and it’s very inexpensive—just a little over $5.00.
Now, if you’re only applying a couple of cable ties, a cable tie tensioning tool might be overkill. However, when you’re applying a hundred or more cable ties, such a tool can really come in handy.
Figure D illustrates how the tie fits into the Cable Tie Tensioning Tool, while Figure E shows how the device is actually used. As you can see, you wrap the tie around the cable bundle as you normally would, insert the end of the tie into the Cable Tie Tensioning Tool and squeeze the spring loaded trigger, which then grasps the end and pulls the tie tight. Once the tie is tightened, you just twist the tool and the blades at the end cut off the excess length.
|This is how the cable tie fits into the Cable Tie Tensioning Tool.|
|When you squeeze the trigger, the Cable Tie Tensioning Tool tightens the tie around the cables.|
In addition to bundling up a set of cables with ties, you can then use self adhesive cable clips to route cables along the edge of a desk or along the wall. My favorite items in this category are called Kwik Klips from Gardner Bender. What makes these clips so nice is that they have a ratcheting/releasable clasp feature, as shown in Figure F, that not only makes them adjustable, but reusable as well.
|Kwik Klips feature a ratcheting/releasable clasp that makes it easy to use.|
Once you mount a Kwik Klip, you pull back on the top tab to open the clip and insert the cable, as shown in Figure G. You then push the tab down on the catch until it locks securely in place as shown in Figure H. To unlock the clip, you just press down on the bottom tab and pull back on the top tab.
The KwikKlips come in three diameter sizes: 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4-inch and in packages containing 6, 4, and 2 clips respectively. Each package sells for around $2.00.
|Once you’ve mounted a Kwik Klip, you pull back on the top tab and insert the cable.|
|You lock the cable in place by pressing the tab down on the catch.|
The Powerstrip Saver
One of the biggest problems under the desk is the underutilization of the powerstrip due to the size and number of AC Adapter bricks, which usually block one or two other outlets. The typical way to work around this situation is to add additional powerstrips. Of course, doing so only adds to the cable mess.
To solve this problem, I used a cool little device called a Powerstrip Saver from The Carpenter Group. The Powerstrip Saver basically amounts to a miniature extension cord that allows you to place the AC Adapter bricks next to the powerstrip, as shown in Figure I. The Powerstrip Saver will allow you to be able to access and use all the outlets on a powerstrip, as shown in Figure J.
|The Powerstrip Saver allows you to place AC Adapter bricks next to the powerstrip instead of on it.|
|By using several Powerstrip Savers, you can get the full use of all the sockets on your powerstrips.|
The Powerstrip Saver is available from PC Connection and sells for under $2.00 a piece.
When you combine these cable organization products to solve your cable mess problems, you’re sure to reap the benefits as I did. Of course, the products I’ve highlighted here aren’t the only solutions for streamlining a cable mess. So, if you have other ideas, pleas take a moment to share them in the discussion area.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.