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October 8, 2014

A Better USB Connector

Filed under: Main — Tags: , — admin @ 12:01 am

Don’t get me wrong: The USB cable is genius. It improves upon a nightmare of cables that once festered behind every computer like a nest of snakes. The problem? While you have a 50 percent chance of plugging the cable in the proper way, you get it wrong about 80 percent of the time.

Before I divulge info about the better USB connector, let me take you back about 15 years, when every device connected to a PC featured its own cable.

For the keyboard, there was the keyboard cable. The mouse used a mouse cable. Sometimes they were the same type of cable, sometimes different, but each device had its own, unique connection.

The printer used a printer cable. The modem, a serial cable. Supposedly the serial cable was the “versatile” cable, also known as an RS-232, but beyond modems and mice, that cable wasn’t very versatile.

The SCSI (say “scuzzy”) standard tried to create a system of uniform cable connections, but it was a nightmare to configure and use.

Up until the point USB was introduced, all computer cabling was literally a tangled mess. Not only that, to connect or disconnect anything to the computer required that you turn off the system and then turn it back on again. That process was time-consuming and frustrating.

Enter USB.

The USB standard created one cable type for many devices. Sure, the USB standard has suffered through a variety of connector types. The typical cable has an A and B connector, which is most likely the way your computer’s printer is connected. Phones use the Micro USB connector. Or is it the Mini USB connector? I get them confused. One is being phased out, so it won’t matter anyway.

The faster USB 3.0 standard introduced yet another connector. It’s color-coded blue, so if you have a blue cable plugging it into a blue USB port is your best bet.

Yet of all these standards, the basic problem remains: Which way is “up” when you connect the cable?

Enter the USB Type-C connector.

The Type-C isn’t a new connector shape, it’s simply reversible. That is, you can plug in the cable the first time; no more reorienting the connector because it’s upside down. Yeah!

With this advent, the USB standard will once again prove a blessing. Then you can boast to your kids in a few years how you suffered through the early implementation of USB, when orienting the cables was a confusing ordeal. And your kids will look at you all bug-eyed and think that you’re weird.

You can read more about the USB Type-C connector at ArsTechnica.

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