How Much Do You Really Know About USB Cables?


Many people use USB cables every day, but not a lot of people know much about them. Charting their evolution since USB cables were developed in 1996, understanding the specific design involved, and recognizing the way their design affects functionality are all important parts of understanding USB cables.


The universal serial bus (USB) cable system was developed in 1996. While there were previous versions in development as early as 1994, USB 1.0 was the first to reach the market. Perhaps ironically, USB cables were originally designed to reduce the clutter of several different wires coming into and out of a computer. In some ways, the USB system has succeeded, at least in reducing the number of connections necessary for a particular item.


Have you ever fumbled around while trying to connect a USB cable the right way? While it may be annoying, the USB being only able to go in one way is considered an example of Poka Yoke, or fool-proofing something. The ideal USB fits into many different peripherals, including printers, cameras, computer mice, and keyboards. One end is designed to attach to the peripheral, and one end is designed to fit into a computer. Despite USB cables sometimes getting a bad rap, it usually works as designed. For example, there are many brands of USB keyboards that can attach to a computer almost instantly, despite having different designs or layouts.


Nowhere is the functionality of a USB cable, specifically the USB port, more on display than with modern power banks. For example, a modern power bank has the ability to charge an Android phone, an Apple iPhone, and an Amazon Kindle simultaneously. The Android phone’s USB-C type cable is not impeded by the Apple iPhone’s Lightning Cable or the Kindle’s micro USB cable. Instead, they can all charge as long as a USB port is open. In fact, because USB has become so ubiquitous, the connection points have backwards compatibility as the technology continues to evolve.

USB cables and connections are among the unsung heroes of the technological age. While you might never really think about them, USB is a vital part of daily life. USB cables are functional, recognizing that the newer technologies will need to be compatible with previous versions. It is also well designed, which allows USB to be a style of peripheral connection that’s used around the world.

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