#163: Plug (and plug) and play

In the networked world, we have come to assume that we can connect all sorts of equipment together -there are few situations with more of that emergent WOW! factor than when two apparently unrelated elements can be plugged together and they somehow start to interact -especially if it happens without a week’s worth of persuasion by reprogramming or filing of surrounding metalwork.

A surprisingly large number of devices which require mechanical design skills are however now hashed together as an afterthought by the electronics team that developed the system. Today’s invention addresses my particular bete noire: the USB connector. I’m talking here about the Series A connector (it’s a shambles that there are so many variants, all part of the same ‘standard’).


Despite what it says here about ease of connectivity, I’ve lost count of the time I’ve spent groping blindly around the back of some immovable boxful of electronics attempting to attach a USB connector without graunching its internals. You’d think that something which has so few axes of symmetry would be easy to connect, but when doing this out of sight, it becomes a 3-D docking problem that a shuttle pilot would find challenging.

Even if I have a hub attached, so that I can drag cables around to the front, I’m still faced with the problem of orientating ends (whose brilliant idea was it to put an identical set of holes on each of the two largest faces of this connector?)

My suggested improvement on the situation is as shown in the diagram. The new component in blue would allow a user to at least overcome that ‘wrong 50% of the time’ problem. I’d be inclined to connect the right hand side permanently (in order to minimise damage to the exposed contacts on this side).