back to article BEHOLD the HOLY GRAIL of TECH: The REVERSIBLE USB plug

Intel has been showing off the next generation of USB connectors which will be the first to fit into ports whichever way up they are – thus avoid the Schrödinger's USB stick problem. The chip giant says the final specification will be locked down by July by the USB Implementers Forum, of which Intel is a member. In a …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick

    Erm, all of mine seem to have something to identify 'top'

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick

      If only the other device also had something to identify the right way up as well....... or wasn't in the vertical orientation around the back where you have difficulty seeing anything..

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick

        I never realised the humble USB plug was a quantum computing device, but this revelation makes perfect sense. I am sure I have noted the orientation flipping on certain devices (top -> bottom transitions and vice-versa), but always attributed this to Murphy's Law (a.k.a. High Auditor Activity, as can be confirmed by the usual garden hose test). The two explanations are of course not mutually exclusive.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick

          All cables have the plug on upside-down. It's a natural law.

        2. Kane Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick@Michael H.F. Wilkinson

          Upvote for the mention of the malignancy test, or "The local hostility of things towards non-things".

          Have a friday pint from me!

          1. DJ 2
            Joke

            Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick@Michael H.F. Wilkinson

            I always thought that usb cables were based in quantum mechanics, that is they have a spin 1/2

            Like a strange quark, you put the cable in, turn it over, try again, turn it over and try again, then on the next half spin it fits.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick@Michael H.F. Wilkinson

              Now I demand a plug that can go in if it's rotated at 90° to the socket. Indeed ANY intermediate angle of rotation. Like my headphone socket.

              1. Robert Grant

                Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick@Michael H.F. Wilkinson

                Exactly - was about to post the same :) I want the 16-spoke star USB configuration.

    2. ITEnvoy

      Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick

      Yes, but you're obviously a competent technical user rather than a retarded pleb ;-).

    3. Steve Evans

      Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick

      Sometimes I suspect that I'm the only person in the world who has noticed that the metal rectangle of the standard USB A plug has a join... And the join is on the bottom!

      1. Grumpy Fellow
        Joke

        Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick

        Top and Bottom? What am I missing here? All of my USB ports are oriented with the long direction vertical. Is there a similar join on the Left or Right?

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: We have all experienced Schrödinger's USB stick

      Erm, all of mine seem to have something to identify 'top'

      Yes, in the existing connector design, a patent design flaw that causes an obvious and common usability problem is "corrected" by imposing additional work on the user. That's a grand solution, and I'm glad Intel decided to stop there for 18 years so you could feel superior.

  2. DougS Silver badge

    What about the Euro mandate?

    Are they going to continue down the ridiculous path of requiring micro-USB chargers even with this obviously better and more future proof standard coming soon?

    1. RikC

      Re: What about the Euro mandate?

      I assume Intel has been drinking coffee in Brussels at least several times?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about the Euro mandate?

        I hope not. Worst coffee I have ever had was at the European Commission.

    2. auburnman

      Re: What about the Euro mandate?

      "better" is relative. The new model will be better in terms of occasionally saving people five seconds plugging it in. Micro USB is better in terms of millions of chargers already being in circulation saving significant manufacturing and shipping costs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about the Euro mandate?

        "Micro USB is better in terms of millions of chargers already being in circulation saving significant manufacturing and shipping costs."

        The industry comes up with new standards, because.... they want to sell you something new.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: What about the Euro mandate?

        Ignore the reversibility. The new standard is better because it is compatible with new faster USB standards. Micro USB will not be.

  3. xperroni

    Remember Edwin

    I never understood how people could have trouble connecting USB cables.

    But then again, others play tennis.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: Remember Edwin

      Hey, some people juggle geese.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remember Edwin

        Not goslings?

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: Remember Edwin

          They certainly do, my hand to god. Baby geese. Goslings.

  4. Bruce Hoult

    Where, by "over a year", you mean "the last TWO generations of iPhone and iPad"?

  5. thosrtanner
    Paris Hilton

    all thumbs

    I have a nasty feeling I'm going to find myself unable to fit the new cables in *either* way up.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: all thumbs

      Personally I'd more predict confusion when it won't fit, followed by a realisation that I'm trying to put it into an "old style" micro-USB port which will no-doubt still be included for legacy compatibility with the multitude of kit out there still.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: all thumbs

      With that Paris icon, I expect you'd prefer something much meatier to get your hands round as you plug it in.

  6. frank ly Silver badge

    Am I the only one ....

    ... who would feel nervous about sending 100W through a connector that is so small and puny and a dust trap?

    1. Graham Dawson

      Re: Am I the only one ....

      Yes. Your current phone charger is also capable of delivering 100 watts.

      It's a meaningless statement without a time component.

      1. andreas koch
        Holmes

        @ Graham Dawson - Re: Am I the only one ....

        >

        Yes. Your current phone charger is also capable of delivering 100 watts.

        It's a meaningless statement without a time component.

        <

        We're talking power here, not work. My phone charger might be capable of delivering 100 Watt-Hours (in 10 hours), but it's not capable of delivering 100 Watt.

        I think you probably twisted it around a bit.

        Nevermind, it's Friday!

        1. frank ly Silver badge

          @ andreas koch Re: @ Graham Dawson - Am I the only one ....

          "I think you probably twisted it around a bit."

          I think that twisting it around a bit could be dangerous too :)

          Note: If it's reversible, then the ground will be on the centre connector(s) and the 20VDC will be on the outer connectors (or vice versa). For this type-C connector, that would give less than 2mm gap between ground and power, with some data connector strips between the power connectors.

          1. andreas koch
            Pint

            ' frank ly - Re: @ andreas koch @ Graham Dawson - Am I the only one ....

            Agreed.

            Kzerrrrrt. Frizzzz. I can hear it already. Nevermind, weekend!

          2. The First Dave

            Re: @ andreas koch @ Graham Dawson - Am I the only one ....

            No, ground is generally the shield.

        2. Graham Dawson
          Pint

          Re: @ Graham Dawson - Am I the only one ....

          I suppose I could run away and pretend I never said it.

          I admit, I derped. Hard.

          Roll on the weekend...

      2. Russ Pitcher

        @Graham Dawson - Re: Am I the only one ....

        Erm... it does include a time component.

        1 Watt = 1 Joule per second

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Am I the only one ....

        Yes. Your current phone charger is also capable of delivering 100 watts.

        Bollocks it's meaningless… I'm yet to see a phone charger that can deliver 100 Joules in a second.

        1. ChrisBedford

          Re: Am I the only one ....

          " Yes. Your current phone charger is also capable of delivering 100 watts.

          Bollocks it's meaningless… I'm yet to see a phone charger that can deliver 100 Joules in a second."

          Yar... a fairly typical laptop charger delivers 70W (19 V @ 3.7 A) or less and it's a brick around 4" long and bigger than 1 x 1.5" in section. If you can pull that kind of power from a little 1" cube or smaller phone charger someone has worked another kind of quantum physics marvel.

      4. A J Stiles

        Re: Am I the only one ....

        No it isn't*. Please learn the difference between a quantity and a rate.

        (*) Unless it actually can deliver 20 A at 5 V. I'd still lay good money that it can't.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Am I the only one ....

          "(*) Unless it actually can deliver 20 A at 5 V. I'd still lay good money that it can't."

          Not sure what you're referring to here, but I wasn't aware they were touting this cable as some kind of jump lead !

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Am I the only one .... @ G-Dawson & time component...

        We know that:

        Time is money.

        Knowledge is power.

        From this we can see that you are paid a lot of money.

        Lend us a fiver, old chap?

    2. andreas koch
      Flame

      @ frank ly - Re: Am I the only one ....

      Nope. To be honest, even 2A on a standard USB 2 plug seemed high to me. 5A on this frightens the shine off my shoes.

      But: My guess is that (on insertion) GND makes contact first, then VCC and then data. The current is then only switched on when the plug is all in. I take it that there will be some really fast Schottky's involved for cutting the power if someone pulls the plug under load; 5A @ 20V DC pulls a longer spark than any gap possible in this small plug. I'd give it a lifetime of 2 cycles.

      Flames, natch.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: @ frank ly - Am I the only one ....

        At least on the expensive proprietary chargers from the manufacturers anyway.

        Buying cheap stuff from Chinese sweatshops could be about to become even more of an incendiary gamble than it currently is...

      2. Frank Long

        Re: @ frank ly - Am I the only one ....

        The present USB standard limits the current draw to 100mA until the connection is confirmed through enumeration.

        Additionally, the voltage is 5V, not 20V.

        1. andreas koch
          Happy

          @ Frank Long - Re: @ frank ly - Am I the only one ....

          . . . >

          Additionally, the voltage is 5V, not 20V.

          <

          At the moment, yes. But the article stated that USB-C would support up to 20V/5A. And that is frightening when interrupted under load, especially as there will be some capacitors and coils in the supply to get the ripples of the SPS under control. The back EMF from that L/C combo can be much higher than the original voltage and make the spark longer.

          It's not the insertion that I find dubious. it's when someone just pulls the plug, as it happen so often.

          edit: I just looked at the presentation. The Micro-C type will be limited to 20V/3A. Still a lot.

          1. Felix Krull
            Coat

            Re: @ Frank Long - @ frank ly - Am I the only one ....

            It's not the insertion that I find dubious. it's when someone just pulls the plug, as it happen so often.

            Well, they're not likely to do that more than once, eh?

        2. NumptyScrub

          Re: @ frank ly - Am I the only one ....

          quote: "The present USB standard limits the current draw to 100mA until the connection is confirmed through enumeration."

          For USB 2.0 it also limits the maximum current to 500mA (5 steps of 100mA each), however I am sat looking at chargers supplied with phones that actually specify 1000mA or even 1500mA at 5V. IIRC if a hub device (charger) ties data to ground (or was it high?) some end devices will switch to "charge mode" and just try to draw as much current as possible.

          Apparently consumers care more about getting their phone to charge quickly than not setting their domicile on fire, and manufacturers are more than happy to oblige :(

          1. DropBear Silver badge

            Re: @ frank ly - Am I the only one ....

            I am sat looking at chargers supplied with phones that actually specify 1000mA or even 1500mA at 5V

            I guess then it's fortunate that these matters tend to be handled by appropriately qualified boffins instead of opinionated members of the general public. Who, upon further inquiry, might have discovered that (questionable assembly of some chargers notwithstanding) past 2007, the relevant part of literature for charging by USB in general is not so much ye olde USB 2.0 spec but rather something akin to the Battery Charging Specification, stating under section 3.5 ("Charging Current Limits"):

            "The standard-A connectors defined in the USB 2.0 spec are rated for 1.5A. Since hosts, hubs and USB chargers all use standard-A connectors, the maximum current that can be drawn from any of these devices is 1.5A.

            Thus, a dedicated charger is required to current limit at some current less than 1.5A, (or IDCHGR)"

            ...sorry, you were saying...?

            1. NumptyScrub

              Re: @ frank ly - Am I the only one ....

              quote: "The standard-A connectors defined in the USB 2.0 spec are rated for 1.5A. Since hosts, hubs and USB chargers all use standard-A connectors, the maximum current that can be drawn from any of these devices is 1.5A.

              Thus, a dedicated charger is required to current limit at some current less than 1.5A, (or IDCHGR)"

              That's fine for the Standard A end of the cable, but the other one is a Micro B that plugs into the phone. Hunting around shows 10W at 5V specified for Micro B in the power delivery, but also specifically mentions "PD aware" cables.

              So I guess I am asking; Why would the PD spec mention 10W at 5V (which is 2A IIRC) when the standard A connector is apparently only rated to 1.5A, and how do you determine if a cable is "PD aware" to know that running 2A down it won't damage it?

              quote: "I guess then it's fortunate that these matters tend to be handled by appropriately qualified boffins instead of opinionated members of the general public."

              Qualified boffins are also members of the general public, and members of the general public can also be qualified. Admittedly my degree is not in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, but it is a related discipline, and I understand enough to refuse to accept "well they know better than you do" without any empirical data to back that up.

              I've already learnt that USB power delivery specifications seem to be slightly at odds with each other today, I'm eager to see what else I can learn :)

              1. andreas koch

                Overloading USB

                http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/apple-charger-kit-21a-a90kq

                These are sold...

                Already out of spec.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Am I the only one ....

      5 amps through that hair's breadth piece of metal? What the flip kind of alloy are they going to use for that? Built in heatsink? Current USB implementations get warm at 500mA, let alone ten times that much. And you can't go ramping up the volts with pin separations a fraction under 1mm. Not in damp climates at least.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About time

    Many times I've tried to plug in a USB device only to find the plug won't go in. And the number of times I've had to take the monitor off the CPU thingy box to turn it on it's side or upside down so the plug will fit is now beyond a joke. The cables should come with instructions, preferably pictorial.

  8. ISYS

    I bet the new adapter still won't fit in the HDMI socket on the side of my laptop (right next to the USB socket)

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Or even into the ethernet socket just on the other side, whose width is just about the same?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ... but a USB 'B' happily mates with the magsafe power connection on my Macbook Air, which is conveniently situated right next to the USB port.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        So glad I'm not alone (@AC 2153513)

        "Or even into the ethernet socket just on the other side"

        So glad I'm not the only one..

        The number of times I've plugged something in, felt the plug go in right (or what feels right) only to wonder why the device that was working not so long ago isn't even being detected now...

        Even worse when in front of a relly or customer (esp one you've just bolloked about doing something silly).

  9. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    What about removal protection.

    One thing missing from the new standard is a way of locking the cables into place.

    As USB replaces things like serial ports in devices for environmental tough conditions, the need to protect against accidental removal becomes important.

    The new standard looks like a backward step in that regard since they look a lot shallower than the present kit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One thing missing from the new standard is

      ... an upper limit on the number of new USB plug/socket types?

    2. James 100

      Re: What about removal protection.

      This.

      I'm very pleased they're finally going palindromic - "about bloody time too" IMO - but some sort of locking mechanism would be very welcome. Maybe a small hole a padlock could go through? (Our open-access areas are all tied up with nasty kludges involving small padlocks around cables in hopes of stopping keyboards and mice going walkies; smaller plugs would make that impossible!)

  10. Blofeld's Cat
    Unhappy

    An accident waiting to happen?

    I can't help thinking that the idea of a "universal" connector performing so many different functions is an accident waiting to happen.

    For example, sooner or later somebody will find a way of squirting 20 V into some device that was expecting 5 V - all it takes is one lazy (or untested) design:

    Designer: "I know that the devices are supposed to negotiate this, but our device will always want 20 V so we can save money by having a 20 V only PSU."

    User: "I need to charge my tablet. This plug will fit it..." >Zap<

    BOFH: "I'll take a dozen"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An accident waiting to happen?

      Designer: "I know that the devices are supposed to negotiate this, but our device will always want 20 V so we can save money by having a 20 V only PSU."

      User: "I need to charge my tablet. This plug will fit it..."

      This has already happened. We have here two Digitech CB hand-held radios, both run on, and require, 12V. The newer one has a barrel connector, the older one has a mini-USB. We got car charger cables for them: the one with the mini-USB connector has a big fat warning not to plug it into USB equipment — a warning that was absent on the original power supply for said radio.

    2. ChrisBedford

      Re: An accident waiting to happen?

      http://www.fiftythree.org/etherkiller/

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: An accident waiting to happen? @ChrisBedford

        Hmm.. That hub gives me some ideas..

        We get some pricks who insist on plugging their kit into my network before they get proper authorization.. A simple "Do not plug your kit in or it will be destroyed" warning notice should suffice, with one of these babies in play..

        And of course some prick who needs a bit of sparkle added to their life...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: An accident waiting to happen? @ChrisBedford

          Sounds a lot like Jacques Electronics-style PoE, which used to unconditionally feed 48V down the line. If your kit wasn't built to withstand it, it blew up.

          Thankfully, their modern stuff uses the proper IEEE-sanctioned PoE standard.

  11. Richard Wharram

    Lightning

    It may have the disadvantage of being proprietary but the Lightning connector is so much better than micro USB. Hopefully this has copied all the good bits.

    1. Jedit
      Meh

      Re: Lightning

      I didn't actually think the Lightning connector was reversible. I grudgingly got an iPad Air last month - it's the only serious way to get tablet implementations of board games - and the Lightning connector always seems to take more than one attempt to fit. Admittedly that's slightly better than the current full USB connector that always takes exactly three attempts to fit despite only having two possible orientations, but I have as much trouble with it as I do with micro-USB on my other devices.

      Maybe it's just me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lightning

        Ah y'know, there's a trick to micro USB connectors, one side is spiky. All HTC devices use the connector the opposite side up to almost(?) everything else, spikes up.

        Standard USB leads have the USB symbol on the upper side (except those cheap crappy Chinese ones supplied with external hard drive boxes) , the upper side is always upwards on motherboards.

      2. baryonic

        Re: Lightning

        "… the Lightning connector always seems to take more than one attempt to fit."

        I can do it blindfolded using my left hand, first time every time. Are you sure you're alright, old chap?

    2. Nick Pettefar

      Re: Lightning

      The trouble with the Lightning socket on my iPhone 5 is that it is a little narrow deep hole that filled up with the detritus of my pockets and then stopped working after a year.

      For pocket use it needs either a flap, a cover or, to be really funky, designed like a vagina that is closed until something is inserted (and self-cleans).

      Still, I got a free replacement iPhone 5 from Apple because of this so I shouldn't complain too loudly.

      1. baryonic

        Re: Lightning

        "The trouble with the Lightning socket on my iPhone 5 is that it is a little narrow deep hole that filled up with the detritus of my pockets and then stopped working after a year."

        Your belly button must be a sight to behold…

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and thy name shall be...

    Ultra-super-fast USB. With a lightning fast (scrap that, "lightning" belongs to Apple), transfer rate of 10Gbps. UP TO - that is, in real world terms, 150 Mbs.

    And colour, they ABSOLUTELY MUST change the colour for the new port. I can't wait to have a new laptop with a USB-panel of black (USB 2), blue (USB 3) and say... green is the obvious choice. Not to mention fetching white for the retro-brigade, back-compatitibilty is for wimps!

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: and thy name shall be...

      Super-Ultra-Fast-Interconnect, or SUFI for short. Appropriate, given there's the obligatory prayer for Allah to be merciful every time you plug it in.

  13. Charles 9 Silver badge

    What about On-The-Go?

    I have one big beef about USB On-The-Go: using it prevents charging. I would like the IF to, while they're at it, modify the OTG standard such that a charging pigtail can be standardized, allowing users to do OTG and still keep their phone topped up (which can actually be important if the device being attached is a high-draw device like a portable hard drive--say you keep your video collection on it but you face a dilemma--it draws too much to be practical, and charging means you can't use the drive).

    PS. As for a spec, perhaps it's time to stop using adjective names and start using numbers. USB 10 sounds like a good starting point, in any event.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: What about On-The-Go?

      PS. As for a spec, perhaps it's time to stop using adjective names and start using numbers. USB 10 sounds like a good starting point, in any event.

      BUt USB two is already in use, and 10 has very little head-room for growth. My vote is for USB 0101.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: What about On-The-Go?

        *Facepalm* 10 as in 10 (decimal) Gbit/sec raw throughput. Future iterations could then use its maximum raw throughput as its identifier. Does a twofer: differentiates versions and tells you right off how far one can take a particular version.

        PS. Remember, we're talking a spec that lay people have to understand, so it's best to stick to good ol' decimal.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What about On-The-Go?

          So is this "USB 10" faster or slower than "USB 480"?

          I'd suggest adding a SI-abbreviation, i.e. USB 5G (USB 3.0), USB 10G (USB 3.1), USB 480M (USB 2.0), USB 10M (USB 1.0).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What about On-The-Go?

            Update: Or alternative, express it in megabits, so USB 10, USB 480, USB 5000, USB 10000.

  14. FartingHippo
    Mushroom

    Blackberry Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    One of the most irritating things about my Blackberry (it's not a short list), was that unlike every other manufacturer on the planet they put the USB symbol on the bottom of the plug, and the Blackberry symbol on the top.

    I forgot about this 'feature' regularly, due to using several chargers, most of which were generic and sensibly labelled. P1ssed me off each and every time I inspected the plug, selected the 'right' orientation, and tried/failed to insert.

    So simple to avoid and, to me, it utterly typified the company's decline. I no longer have a Blackberry.

    1. Al Jones

      Re: Blackberry Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

      Yeah, because the black on black plastic moulding is so much easier to see/interpret than the teeth sticking out of the bottom side of a MicroUSB plug.

      Not.

    2. Boothy

      Re: Blackberry Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

      Samsung do the same. Always annoyed me that every device at home that used USB was the same way up, all except the S3, which was upside down :-( (The USB specs even state which way up the sockets should be fitted!).

      Also meant a generic USB phone dock I had, wouldn't work with the S3, as the built in plug wasn't reversible :-/

      Using a Nexus 5 now, which has the USB the correct way up :-)

  15. Eradicate all BB entrants

    If we are still using it .....

    ...... after 130 years, like the 1/4" jack plug (a connector that you can twist while it's plugged in), then it will be an invention to note.

    1. Pookietoo
      Meh

      Re: If we are still using it .....

      All that time and we're still twisting our jack plugs trying to get a good contact ...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Getting USB plugs the right way up is easy

    USB connectors always have two square holes on the upper side, except when they're on the lower side or when they aren't present. They also have a USB logo on the lower side, except when it's on the upper side, when it's absent, or when it's on both sides.

    The upper side of the socket is the one furthest from the floor. Where sockets are mounted vertically, it's the side that would be nearest to the floor if you laid the device on its side with the wrong side facing up. You may find it easier to think of it as the left-hand side (right-hand side for left-handed people). But then you will have to decide whether you're in front of the computer or behind it.

    /anon, because Kubla Cant posted this in another forum. He gets the credit... ;-)

    1. Darryl

      Re: Getting USB plugs the right way up is easy

      Also special mention to Apple and their attempt to make proprietary USB connectors back in the days of the G4. The keyboards had a little footlong cable, and they supplied an extension cable, but it had a little bump in one side on the socket end so that nothing else but the Apple keyboard could be plugged in.

  17. Shady

    Now if we can just rid the world of....

    ... 3 pin power supplies where the captive cable comes out of the top of the plug instead of the bottom.

    And hang, draw, quarter and piss on the graves of the motherf*king w*nkstains who thought that was a great design.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Now if we can just rid the world of....

      "And hang, draw, quarter and piss on the graves of the motherf*king w*nkstains who thought that was a great design."

      You can add all the arsehole designers who make charger blocks too long above the live pin so that two of them can't face each other on a double-row extension block.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    USB->mini-USB->micro-USB

    The only connector with a good design in this bunch is the USB. Both the mini- and micro-USB are fragile enough that I have successfully, if thats the right word, plugged them in upside down.

    As for the USB, for gods sake, stop using black plastic for the innards. It takes forever to find a store that has USB cables with white-plastic tabs. If you've ever tried to connect one in dim lighting, you know what I mean.

    1. vagabondo

      Re: USB->mini-USB->micro-USB

      Black = USB 1

      White = USB 2

      Blue = USB 3

      So if white is important, buy USB 2 cables

    2. Pookietoo
      Boffin

      Re: If you've ever tried to connect one in dim lighting

      I have spectacles and pocket flash-lights to deal with "can't see small things in the gloom". Although I also have black, grey and white USB cables on my desk, in regular, mini and micro sizes - all have white tabs, so I probably wont need my specialist tools anyway.

  19. dervheid
    Meh

    Knowing which way 'up' the plug is

    doesn't help when there's no (apparent) definition or standardisation for which way 'up' the socket should be.

    If you have multiple devices, from different manufacturers (or even the same one), you can guarantee that you'll have some one way, some the other.

    And as for plugs being marked, same problem; some one side, some the other, some not at all.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Knowing which way 'up' the plug is

      Thank NASA for their zero-G Connector range...

    2. D@v3
      Flame

      Re: socket orientation

      I swear I have had devices where the sockets next to each other have had different orientations

  20. Harmless

    Too confused now. So many to choose from.

    I'm someone who used to read the Maplin catalogue for pleasure (back in the early 80s when they had circuit diagrams and all sorts of educational details between the spaceship art covers) but I find that I've given up trying to follow the endless changes and varieties of USB.

    These days I'll only connect chargers (that I label carefully) to the original equipment they came with. I wouldn't dream of connecting any other devices together for fear of releasing the magic smoke. Should I be embarrassed or am I not the only one?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This friend of mine....

    ...swore black and blue that a USB would fit BOTH ways!

    Showed me once, he said he was having a problem with his computer recognising a USB.

    He'd somehow squeezed a USB into a LAN socket.

    And yes, they will go in both ways, if you force them.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: This friend of mine....

      I had a USB port that would accept plugs either way, and it was a USB port. They would only work in one direction, and I imagine that the periodic plugging them in upside-down severely shortened the lifespan of devices.

      The plastic blocking bit had fallen out of the port.

  22. NogginTheNog
    Flame

    RJ45

    Yes, the annoying fact that standard USB plugs fit (width-ways) into ethernet ports has annoyed me many times when using laptops...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    MS Keyboards

    ..maybe, just maybe this explains why after my PC freezes and crashes afterward I can't slect Safe as the USB connected MS Keyboard doesn't respond - I got the plug in upside down! but then why does it work fine after the system finally re-loads?

  24. stucs201

    So instead of the wrong way up...

    ...we'll now be finding the wrong port.

    While the USB-A port is a horrible design at least its the same port on every host device (admittedly the other end of the cable has had this problem for a long time). With cables I guess its not too much of a problem, but most of my USB-A plugs are directly on the device (memory sticks, bluetooth adaptors, security dongles, mouse receivers). True an adaptor cable will work, but it removes some convinience.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WTAF?

    'Apple users already have the kind of reversible plugs that many USB users crave: its Lightning plug has had the feature for over a year.'

    Dear lord, what is the world coming to when Apple actually invented something and didn't steal the idea from someone else!

  26. James Pickett

    What is wrong with a plug/socket that is obviously asymmetric, like, say, Firewire? Doesn't KISS apply any more?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      FireWire isn't THAT asymmetric. I've has my share of having plugs upside-down.

      I think the main problem is that it's hard to be very asymmetric when one of your dimensions (in this case, height) is very limited. No matter how much you try, it's hard to make something of Micro's size other than something relatively flat on both sides. KISS principle would dictate that if one can't make the two sides easy to distinguish (which you really can't with a necessarily-flat plug), the next best choice is to design it so that it shouldn't matter which way you do it (that's what Lightning does and what Type C will do).

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Schrödinger's USB stick problem

    Optimized - I look at the connector first and now only have to spin once!

  28. David Fetrow
    Happy

    Reversible Type A Connector

    There are reversible USB cables now. They aren't exactly official but they do seem to work.

    Until recently typing "reversible USB cable" into a search engine worked but the new spec has swamped the gadget.

    Searching for "reversible USB A connector" still finds examples.

  29. Frank Rysanek

    USB connector that fits either way up? That's on the market already...

    I was shocked a couple months ago by the USB ports on this hub:

    http://www.czc.cz/connect-it-ci-141-usb-2-0-hub-4-porty/130887/produkt?q-category-id=cep0kaggl8jm4aejnad83vui25

    You can insert your peripherials either way up. It feels like you have to apply a bit of violence, but we're using it in a PC repair workshop and it's been working fine for several months now.

  30. ChrisBedford

    Doesn't look robust.

    The actual metal bit that sticks into the socket is, from the picture in the article, half the length of the current connector's. With the stiffness of some cables I have used (I'm looking at a USB 3.0 cable that came with a cheap external SATA enclosure) that is going to put undue strain on the socket and before long render it useless. Anyone ever tried to get any connectors on a notebook motherboard repaired? If you can find someone who does repairs down to that level it's often more costly than buying a new motherboard. Which in itself is often more costly than buying a new computer.

    So what it could come down to is a £ 2 cable leading to the replacement of a laptop. Seems like a bit of bad design to me.

  31. RobHib
    FAIL

    The standard USB socket is a bloody mess. I don't know how many times I've managed to put the plug connector into the socket upside-down.

    Only last week, in low light, I plugged external storage into one of my PVRs and the plug was up-side-down. This broke the plastic tab inside the socket that supports the pins. A new socket is required.

    How the USB socket ever got off the ground has to be a mystery. No one associated with its design would ever admit to it!

    It remains to be seen if anything is actually improved in this next round.

    Oh, BTW, how many people have plugged their USB plugs into the LAN socked without initially noticing it? Even the width is sufficiently similar for one not to notice if one is doing it by feel. The design truly is hopeless, and it's made considerably worse with poorly designed plugs as they're sufficiently flexible (inaccurate) so as to easily plug it in upside-down.

    1. Hurn

      Easiest way to tell when you've plugged a USB A into an RJ-45:

      It goes in the first time.

      (Assuming low visibility conditions, when it goes in the first time, I yank it out , rotate 180 degrees and try again - if goes in second time, it's an RJ-45. If it won't go in, rotate it back to original orientation and re-insert.)

      50/50/80 Rule Applies:

      When given a 50/50 chance of plugging something in the right way, 80% of the time, the wrong way is chosen.

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