The Blog

Jan 20, 2008

The Total Lack of Affordable Computer Peripheral Patchbays 

by Maxim Porges @ 11:26 AM | Link | Feedback (0)

If there is one thing I really hate about having so many computers and so many hard drives, it's that I have to keep plugging and unplugging them.

This is a similar problem faced by many recording studios with audio gear, in that you have lots of kit that can all talk to each other (i.e. they all produce and consume audio) but often need to wire it up in new and unforeseen ways.

The solution to this problem is the patchbay. Hook all your gear up to the back of the patchbay, and the connections are presented to you on the front of the patchbay as unterminated connections. You can then use small leads on the front of the unit to terminate the output of one device to the input of another, and vice versa.

So, there had to be a product on the market that did a similar thing for USB and FireWire. After all, there are so many hubs available.

Turns out there's nothing - at least outside the pro video realm. Sure, you can drop $140 odd on an 8 in, 8 out FireWire patchbay that fits in a 1U chassis. What I want fits on a desktop on top of my USB/FireWire hard drives and offers a set of both USB and FireWire ports. That product simply doesn't exist.

So, I started looking at making my own. All a patchbay really is is a box with a bunch of female-to-female cables (one port on the back, passing through to a corresponding port on the front). Even an electronics dunce like myself could stitch that together given a free Saturday and a soldering iron. Of course, FireWire ports are horribly expensive (about $5-$10 a piece), so by the time I ordered all the components I'd need, I might as well have bought the $140 one that doesn't meet my needs.

So, I'm still on the search for affordable FireWire components. Maybe I'll just build one myself for the fun of it. I just find myself disappointed in the marketplace of available options for a device I was sure already existed.