USB inventor admits that the plugs are annoying

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/06/21/usb-inventor-admits-that-the-p.html

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But why a rectangle, or any regular shape? A four sided parallelogram with the long sides of different lengths would have also worked, because the external frame of the design has nothing to do with the internal wiring. Like HDMI connectors for computers.

Engineers, man.

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USB-C is godsend in many ways. Except for the fact that I had to buy an expensive adapter to use all of my peripherals.

HDMI is just as much a pain in the butt when you’re working by feel in a confined space, i.e. in 80% of scenarios the tech was designed for.

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My annoyance was not only the reversibility, but the total lack of any sort of capture feature. You wind up trying both directions multiple times, because the slightest misalignment and the plug won’t go in. Compare this with even the horrible NEMA 5 power plug, where the prongs are rounded and the area around the socket slots is dished, so that the plug is guided in on insertion. You can plug a US power cord in blind - don’t try that with a USB cable!

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USB plugs are a technological marvel.

It takes some really advanced engineering to make a plug that always goes in the wrong way on the first attempt, then goes the wrong way again when you turn the plug around and then, finally, after turning it around again, fits.

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USB-B works that way, and it is pretty nice, but quite a bit taller than USB-A. I don’t know what their form factor targets were exactly in 1996, but USB-B shape connectors would not have been great for more modern laptops. A slight beveling of the sides would have helped when you could see the port clearly, but I think it might still have been annoying when you weren’t looking right at it, such as ports on the sides of laptops or the back of desktops. HDMI is still pretty annoying and it is a trapezoid, and usb micro-b is asymmetric but due to its small size you really have to look right at it to get it right.

Still, it would have been a big improvement over what we got even if it wasn’t perfect.

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Or parallel ports.

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It’s hard to get such user interface details right the first time. I suspect that the designer didn’t realize that this plug would eventually be plugged in billions of times, so it would behoove him to do a human factors study.

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Yeah, this. The joke about how, with USB, the first attempt always fails because it’s upside down just makes me think, “Wow, you manage to plug it in after only two attempts?!”

That kind of amounts to an assumption on his part that the design was never actually going to get used, though.

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Relevant:

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Annoying! Are you kidding me!?! Before that we had: Giant parallel plugs, serial plugs, ps/2 keyboard and mouse plugs, 2 types of phone style plugs, and several other nonstandard plugs. None of these were reversible, though the phone plugs were easy to get the right side up IF you knew which way it was on your computer. The ps/2 plugs were ROUND for goodness sake. In the beginning the ps/2 ports were not interchangeable either. And except for the phone plugs, they all had these pins that you could squish and wreck the cable. and you had those screw in things. USB is SUPER convenient and UNannoying compared.

Bah, get off my lawn!

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As far as I am concerned, anyone who complains deserves to be sentenced to resolving IRQ conflicts between a mouse and a modem when trying to add a mouse to one’s serial bus. That’ll shut them up real quick.

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Its not so bad. It could have been like the iPhone’s original connector…

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Even the iphone original connector was way beter then anything before usb

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Still, there’s gotta be a way that doesn’t suffer from those issues, but is shape-based.

I’m thinking if the front end of the plug were slanted toward the cord on one side making a right triangle, it would easily slide in in one direction, and naturally center itself, but wouldn’t go in in the other direction, it would just move to the side.

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Nah, they just assumed a different use case. They were replacing keyboard, mice, modem, and printer connectors – things you plug in once and generally leave there. At first there weren’t USB memory sticks (or any kind of small dongle), so there wasn’t a lot you’d plug and unplug.

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Us older folks with bad eyes would just prefer something simple like an old fashion head phone jack.

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USB storage devices just made the problem more annoying, though. It was already a problem.

What’s annoying to me is not just the ease of insertion (or lack thereof), but the pin inside of the receptacle, which is still there in even USB-C, making it a nested pin arrangement. Say what you will about Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector, but it has less points of failure.

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Full size DisplayPort is probably my favorite computer connector in widespread use. It has a fairly functional locking mechanism to stop it pulling out (big problem with HDMI), and has one beveled corner that’s big enough to find by feel. And it doesn’t depend on small springs as much, which wear out over time and lead to flaky connections on ports that get plugged/unplugged a lot (HDMI and mini-DP on laptops are particularly bad).

I’m loving USB-C so far, but long term longevity of the plugs and ports remains to be seen.

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