I somehow managed to fry one by plugging in the power connector upside down. This should be possible, as it used the 4-pin connector from the middle of the top row here . That and its mate are not symmetrical and are made of a pretty stiff plastic.
When I told the company we were doing the project from that I had fried one of the pretty much irreplaceable test drives I expected them to be very upset.
Instead, their owner laughed and admitted that he had also fried two of them that way.
Even better, his contacts inside IBM told him that something like 30% of the drives were failing testing during manufacturing, and that had been traced to IBM testers plugging in the power connector upside down and frying the drive!
It turned out that for some unfathomable reason they were using a power socket on the drive that had a very flexible plastic hood. It turned out that the force needed to plug in the keyed connector backwards, bending the hood out of the way, was not much more than the normal force to plug the thing in the right way because the plastic was so flexible.
The only reference in the article is,
> The Intel team led by Bhatt anticipated the user frustration and opted for a rectangular design and a 50-50 chance to plug it in correctly, versus a round connector with less room for error.
Which sounds like a post-hoc rationalisation for a bad design to me. I find it hard to believe they did this intentionally.
Not everyone will notice/remember, but some will, especially if it is logical - like 'the "heavier" end is down for more stability.'
Unfortunately it looks like the accepted orientation of HDMI connectors is a precarious "heavy side up."
Now "up" isn't always up, connectors on the side of a monitor for instance should often have the logo towards you since they are usually vertically mounted.
With a second of thought it mostly works as expected in my eyes. But there are exceptions.
HDMI isn't so bad.
S-Video connectors were terrible. Worse than USB in every way possible, if you can imagine that.
HDMI and Displayport are just hard to come in from an angle. DVI and VGA are much simpler in that regard.
Svideo was often quite simple, just find the whole and you are halfway done. Then carefully twist it and you can feel when it is correct. Even when you have no idea where the slot even is to start.
With HDMI and DP being so similar it is easy to mix them up.
You don't, for example, hear the same complaints about DVI, VGA, Serial, or Parallel ports. Why? Because you can feel the right orientation when you plug things in.
If you can't feel the right orientation, then the next best thing is to make the orientation not matter.
This is why S-Video sucks. Because you MUST see to work with it.
Of course, the main reason people have a problem with USB is because they are constantly interacting with it, plugging and unplugging things.
The worst part is that they already had a good example of a connector you couldn't plug in backwards, was sturdy, hot-pluggable, and could easily accommodate the number of pins they needed: The Gameboy Link Cable.
I guess the real LPT is to always ask the oldest remaining provider of digital home electronics for advice on these matters.
USB's rectangular is simply a horrible oversight. Comparing it to PS2 is pretty lame. What about comparing it to nearly every other connector out there?
HDMI only keys based on the metal shielding. If you're trying to insert this without looking, it's almost impossible. I've seen that HDMI ports don't really conform to a specific orientation and very frequently get soldered on the underside of boards instead of on top.
I hoped the article would explain also why the above happens, not just why the design decision which leads to the above was made.
Although I think it's not just the shape, but a combination with other things. Thingking in the direction of: most ports are all black and/or hard to reach so from a distance you just don't see where exactly it will fit so you just try and don't get a proper match. I.e. I never ever have this problem when pluggin into a socket which is right before my eyes and/or e.g. has the central plastic piece in white since then you can clearly see how to match them. Further ideas?
If I had to guess, I'd suspect that it's because there are a couple of ways to get it wrong when plugging in a USB drive or cable. You can get the orientation wrong but you can also accidentally put it in at a slight angle and have it catch. In the later case, just slightly adjusting your approach would get it in, but because you know that there is a chance of you having got the orientation wrong, you automatically assume that that was what happened and flip the orientation instead and end up flipping it back when you realize you were right the first time.
I suspect that the reason we make that assumption, that we got the orientation wrong and not the angle, is that that's actually what happens the majority of the time when we fail to insert a USB connector. We discount the angle problem because it happens so infrequently, and when it does happen we just get the impression that we got the orientation wrong, twice, which is something that sticks with us. Hence, the sense that there is a paradox about the orientation of USB connectors.
I found this out trying to fix someone's printer. I even un- and re-plugged the cable and it still wasn't detected. It wasn't until I actually looked at the back panel that I noticed the printer's USB cable was plugged into an RJ-45 network jack.
(2) USB-C eliminates the problem of putting the cable in upside down, but it adds the problem that there are different kinds of USB-C cable, you might pick the wrong one, get a fake, etc. It's a tough problem to make one cable that can "do everything" but not make the cable to plug your mouse in crazy expensive.
(3) I've seen quite a few devices (PCs and tablets) where the Type-C connectors seem to be floppy and not well connect to the circuit board. I haven't had one outright fail, but I think it's just a matter of time.
I like the idea of USB C, but actual my experience with it makes me happy to currently be on a micro. You just learn which way the plug goes. USB A on the other hand, that's trickier...
I believe micro USB is the same way.
Do you know what the reasoning behind this decision was?
Lightning also appears to
have severe problems with arcing.
Well, it IS "Lightning"...
I can't speak to arcing problems.
Not likely to spend real money on something Google put their name on again.
Make a small tool (I use plastic food packaging from something like fresh strawberries) to grab and hook that stuff out of there.
And then, it works fine.
AFAIK an insertion cycles test is linear and extremely repetitive e.g. no bending forces and no foreign objects. It doesn't cover the wide range of real world stresses.
For example, I have a Fiio bluetooth adapter which will not charge with a high rate charger, only a USB-A 5v charger via a USB-A -> USB-C adapter. Is it my MacBook and iPad charger’s fault? The cable’s fault? Fiio’s USB-C chipset fault? Beats me - I have no way to know or find out, since I don’t have the tools to sniff out who is not handling the charging protocol properly (and yes, this could be the cable, since there is silicon attached to the USB-C plugs on both sides of the cable which may be involved in the negotiation as well).
This isn’t a huge problem for me now, since I have very few USB-C cables, and none which are not effectively always plugged into a charger. However, in a decade I’ll have to figure this out with a box of cables with wildly differing capabilities.
Knowing the data rate of a cable is an utter mess. But for charging, every cable can do 60 watts. For most purposes the difference between 60 and 100 watts is pretty minor.
It's possible they exist, but I have yet to have personal experience of an actual Thunderbolt cable that didn't have a thunderbolt mark on the connector.
Yes. We went from something remediated by looking at the plug, to something that can’t be remediated without trying it and seeing if it fails.
My playstation vita has limped along for years with a finicky edge connector that takes some care to get it to charge. The vita is astonishingly easy to do field repairs on, but you can't replace that connector. It's a good thing that the kind of games I like to play on the Vita come out on Steam these days.
Many electronic devices EOL because of problems with connectors. When I was an undergrad, I think every engineering student in the world had an HP28S calculator, in which the springs would eventually push the batteries right through the battery door. People tried taping it, but short from running it on a bench power supply, none of those engineering students found a great answer to fix it.
Look for the two little open holes on the face of the plug and you're golden
I don't think this is quite true. You wouldn't need double the wires.
You can even have a round cable with pins radiating out from the center, and the connector would be concentric circles. Then the plug will always go in no matter what.
Manufacturers do. I can't count the number of times that I've seen hardware manufacturers spend four-to-five figures in order to find a way to eliminate a 2 cent part. At scale, even a 2 cent part adds up to serious money.
Because people are always looking for the lowest price for things, so manufacturers have a very strong incentive to reduce those prices. If they don't, then people will buy the competitor's gear that costs 2 cents less. In that sort of market, manufacturers won't raise prices for gear unless they have no other option. If they need to get more money out of it (because of cost increases, or because they want a higher profit margin), then the first thing they'll do is find a way to reduce manufacturing costs. Increasing the price is the last thing they'll do.
We're talking about an industry that in 2014 included about 600 million units  - times maybe 4 USB ports per unit, and we're nearing 2.4 billion USB ports. That money adds up fast.
 - https://www.statista.com/statistics/272595/global-shipments-...
Why not a shape that can't be rotated, like Displayport or HDMI?
Later usb dont have that defense. Those micro usb abominations have no excuse. They are just waiting to break and become landfill.
Now imagine someone showed me a new connector that looks like it could go either way, but only one way would work. They had a clean slate, and that's what they came up with? From my perspective at the time, that was the dumbest fucking thing I'd seen in a long while.
You didn't address microusb or even its cousin the lightning cable. Talk to anyone who fixes phones and, after the screen or battery, those damned connectors are broken by design. Flimsy. They are D shaped but only barely. I can easily plug microusb in either way. Oops. Lightning breaks because you unplugged it too many times. Its not D shaped and works both ways. Still made-for-landfill.
Yeah, Usb was a game changer went it came out. Intel did that design for size, cost and just plain "ability to get it out there". Firewire didn't really pan out. Too expensive.
So many attempts at the perfect cable. They all work in their own way. USB A did ok in general.
Heck, even USB B-type connectors.
Orient that seam downwards or (if the ports are vertical) to the right, and most of the time it'll fit first go.
I have come across a few setups that had a USB port 'upside down', but mostly this is on laptops where they've got the connector board fitted upside-down inside the chassis.
Wouldn't do you any good, as the port can be on different orientation (up/down) in different devices.
If you mean look at both ends, then duh!. That doesn't count as "first try" though as it's not an actual "try" (and see), but a in-advance planned action...
There is no method or approach that is foolproof for all cables and ports. I have cables with no logo, cables with rounded and heavy cable parts on both sides, cables with holes in the metal jacketing on both sides, and so on.
The only truly foolproof method is to look inside both the plug and the port before attempting to plug it in, to see where the metal is. Of course, that only works when you can clearly see into the port, so it doesn't work in the dark or for ports behind other things.
So yeah, nothing is foolproof when it comes to USB-A. Not 100% of the time.
Edit: Whoops, meant port.
No need for USB logos or anything.
The port is orientated “up” on the device (that is, the thick portion is on top), or orientated up with regards to the motherboard if it’s sideways. Most devices that accept USB provide these orientations.
I don't know if this is specced—otherwise it's very interesting that all the manufacturers agreed to this kind of arrangement.
why couldn't they have used a notch / tab like other connectors do? not durable enough?
I'm surprised there's not more stories like this lately.
Probably because what you describe requires an unusually high amount of force to be applied to the connector, causing most people to stop before damage is done.
Does Intel not award patent bonuses? I think they're finally being phased out but historically big tech companies have given bonuses to employees who are awarded a patent.
for a USB-C to USB-C cable, you can use either end of the cable!
Grab one end of the cable, either end, and it plugs in (flipped either way).
You can plug a phone into a laptop. You can make either one of them be the "host" and you can control which one will charge the other one, or that no charging will occur at all. (At least with Android and a Pixelbook.)
You choose which does what using UI controls on each device.
You can specify whether this device will provide charge to the other device. Whether this device will share files with the other device. And the other device can specify that it will be charged, and will receive files.
There is no guesswork about it. No mystery.
This happens eventually on all types of cables, USB, Apple branded cables, earphone cables, everything. Higher quality cables last for longer, even much longer, but not forever.
USB cables don't rotate in place, but you have to exert a lot more effort to twist them twice (so they plug in). Reversible cables have a lower barrier to twisting.
(I'm repeating myself a little, but that's because what I had just written sounds confusing in re-reading.)
(2) I mark the top side outline of the USB symbol with a white paint marker.
Not quite sure I follow that argument, but I'm not a hardware person. Nor am I looking to be one.