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I’ve Had The Same PC Speakers For 20 Years, Almost My Entire Adult Life

'They don't make 'em like they used to'

I'm about to tell you the story of my adult life, expressed through the lens of a single piece of computer hardware.

In 2004, at the age of 24 and still studying at university, I was also working at EB Games (aka GameStop) here in Australia, and absolutely loving it. This was a golden time to be employed at the company; it was well into the modern era of video game consoles, but it was also long before the chain descended into the hells of whatever drain it's circling now. We could wear t-shirts and jeans to work, we could play everything from Anthrax to Aesop Rock on the store speakers, we got to play tons of video games, didn't have to upsell shit–it was great.

We also got a healthy little employee discount. I would mostly use this on GameCube games--I was once awarded a joke certificate by management for being the only employee in the country to pre-order Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life--but in 2004 I'd only recently moved out of home and bought my first PC, so decided to replace the ancient and dying set of cream-coloured, 90's-ass speakers I'd been dragging around until then.

Why not buy them from work? This being 2004, EB Games still mostly sold actual video games, so the hardware and accessory section was slim pickings. I knew I wanted a 5.1 setup--my bedroom in my rented grouphouse was small enough I could string the speakers around and actually get the full surround effect--and I knew I was also a broke student, so I settled on what at the time felt like a pretty inconsequential purchase: a set of budget Logitech X-530 speakers. I think they cost me around AUD$75 (USD$50) at the time?

They didn't actually review that well upon release (this CNET review says they "aren't a very good investment"), but whatever, I loved them. They had true 5.1 output and a subwoofer, and suddenly my games sounded amazing. Probably the only downside was that in order to get that true 5.1 output you needed to complete a complex colour-based puzzle at the back of your PC, making sure each cable from the speakers was plugged into the corresponding jack. You would think this would be easy, just match the colours of the cables to the colour at the back of the computer! But no, the colours of the cables and of the ports in my PC were different, and so plugging the speakers in while trying to test the output at the same time felt like Han Solo stuffed in the bowels of the Millennium Falcon, trying to make emergency repairs while shouting "No, this speaker goes THERE, that one goes THERE!" at Chewie.

This is a terrible photo of my bedroom in the Stanmore grouphouse I lived in through 2005. You can see the X-530 speakers--temporarily reduced to a 2.1 setup thanks to the room layout--on the left. I really wish I still had that Lord of the Rings standee.

I tell you this small detail because, while I didn't know it at the time, 2004 would be the start of a period of my life that is best described as nomadic. In December 2004, having finally graduated from university I left that grouphouse in the Canberra suburb of O'Connor--and my job at EB Games--to move back in with my parents, so I could save some cash for a relocation to Sydney.

In February 2005 I made that move to Sydney, renting the top floor of a terrace house in the inner west suburb of Stanmore while I worked at NSW Fire & Rescue. In February 2006 I moved to an apartment in Waterloo to live with my girlfriend, a different part of Sydney that was closer to work. In August 2007, now working full-time for Kotaku, we both moved back to Canberra (Amaroo). In August 2008 we moved house within Canberra (Kambah).

We moved again in 2009 (to another Canberra suburb, Franklin) when me and my now wife purchased our first home. Then in 2010, when we had our first kid, I had to move bedrooms because the baby was going where my office had been. And this just kept happening for years, moving rooms, moving desks, until in 2019 we finally landed in our current home that we--fingers crossed--will be in for a while.

By 2016 my family had so outgrown our first, small house in Franklin--for a time I'd worked from a standing desk in our kitchen!--that we had to convert our garage into an office. Despite nine house/room moves already under their belt and 11 years of service, the X-530s were still doing their thing.

Every time I moved, packing up my life and unpacking it anew somewhere else, the particulars of that life would change. Early on I was dragging around little more than a GameCube, some sneakers and an old bed frame. Later there'd be two of us, bouncing around from apartments to houses, then we had a kid, then another kid, and by the time of that last move in 2019 we were shuffling a whole-ass house full of stuff, from multiple beds to kids’ books to kitchen appliances to bags and bags of just towels. My life had changed completely, and everything in it had changed alongside it.

Except for one thing. Those damn speakers. Through all that, all that time, all those moves, all the accompanying changes and advances in technology, I am still listening to those same speakers today. Everything else I'm using in 2024 is relatively new! It all has USB-C, or it's 4K, and/or it has RGB shit in it. My PC is doing things we couldn't even have conceived back in 2004. I'm connected to 250 megabits per second internet, there's a $250 Xbox controller sitting here and a virtual reality headset charging on my desk.

"They don't build 'em like they used to" is an annoying thing to be told constantly by older generations, but it's also very true. They don't. Nearly everything we buy, use and own from the last couple of decades was built cheap and built to be disposed, so we could buy the next cheap thing to dispose so we can buy the next. Since 2004 I've probably been through 5-6 mice? At least three monitors. Four keyboards. And all were replaced not because I necessarily wanted to, but because they broke.

In 2019 I was lucky enough to score a place that had room for my own office, and yes, the X-530s are still around (I had to get rid of that TV not long after this was taken, it was too much). As an example of other stuff breaking, even just a few years later the pictured mouse, Xbox Elite controller, headphones and wireless phone charger are all no longer with me/us.

Yet here are the X-530s. I can plug them into my modern PC and they just work, without the need for any kind of adapter or other means of bridging an ancient hardware generation with the present day. Also they still just...work? After moving them around the country, throwing them into boxes, tossing them into trucks and subjecting them to countless hours of games and music over two decades, they sound as great today as they did when I first bought them in 2004.

I don't get the chance to say it too often, but as weird an example as they are, it's nice to have a "they don't build 'em like they used to" of my own. 

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