Rant: Why Can’t Cables & Adapters be Standardized?

angry man- smallerWarning, rant follows!!

If your household is anything like mine, you have numerous devices which either require connecting to the PC occasionally or charging regularly, and each device’s cable comes with a different connection on one end or different power adapter. For example; in our household, with just the two of us, we have 2 cameras, a Navman GPS, 2 eReaders, an iPad, and 2 cellphones, none of which include cables that are interchangeable… each cable’s device end connection is slightly different in shape and/or size to the others. Is this a waste of money and resources or what?

Now I’m not the neatest of people but I have manged to keep all my connection cables together in an old shoe box. I guess I could have attached labels to them as well but, quite frankly, I’m just not that organized either. Consequently, each time I want to connect a specific device to the PC I have to go through a frustrating ritual of trial and error. Why can’t cable connectors be universal?

Why Can’t Power Adapters be Universal Too?

mess of cables twoEven more annoying is the vast array of different AC/DC power adapters needed to power our devices. Obviously, radically different types of devices are often going to require different wattage and amperage output but what about those devices that fall within the same genre. For example; over the years I’ve needed to replace my router 5 times and each router’s power adapter has come with different specs, so when a router dies, another perfectly good adapter then becomes unusable. Similarly, over the years myself and she who must be obeyed have replaced 6 cellphones between us, each accompanied by a different power adapter, not only different in specs but also different in the way they connect to the phone.

I now have a pile of power adapters, all in good working order and for all sorts of devices, sitting on a bench in the garage just gathering dust. Why do I keep them? Because you never know, when a power adapter currently in use breaks down one of the old ones might just be a perfect fit. The only thing is, that never quite pans out, does it.

So, here’s an idea. How about all you manufacturers get together and adopt a universal standard for cable connections and power adapters? What’s that, you make too much extra money out of charging for separate cables and adapters each time… hmmm.


11 thoughts on “Rant: Why Can’t Cables & Adapters be Standardized?”

  1. Jim, Feel better? The release you got from your RANK is as good as it will get. Until all these companies stop fighting each other over things that should be standards by now in the technology arena, we the customers will pay with frustration. For a time I collected old power supplies and cables. When a friend needed a replacement I would find something close to the right voltage and then cut their connector off their defunct power supply and cobble up a replacement. Almost always worked as good as OEM. If they were standardized, we could all go to any local big box store and get a cheap replacement. NEVER HAPPEN.

  2. Proprietary connectors are profitable, of course, but have you ever thought of using the plug off one adapter to make another of the same or similar spec
    work where you need it?

    It’s not difficult, usually all you need is a soldering iron and solder, a wire stripper and something to check the polarity (multimeter, VOM etc.)

  3. Hi Jim !
    Good reading. Do you do this professionally anywhere?…Anyway, I just wanted to add my tuppence worth.
    Cables..Yes there are many but my gripe is more about the way these companies make their cables.
    Have you noticed the way these cables tangle? I really believe this is not random at all but a deliberate ploy to drive us crazy, bust the cable into several parts in frustration and then have to buy another one.
    Try it some time.. I have..Lay out some cables in a nice straight pattern..or place them neatly into rows somewhere safe.
    Now come back in say three weeks and try to extract the one that is needed… See what I mean.
    Oh yes this is indeed a clever plot.
    Now where did I put my little pink pills.
    Looks like it’s about time for one or two !
    Cheers and thanks Jim for your columns. Always a great read.

    1. Hi Colin,

      LOL. Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I have a big screen TV with multiple components attached. I’ve connected everything myself, carefully laying out the cables as I went along. Still, several months on, and despite all my careful planning, if I go behind the entertainment unit to adjust anything, all the cables have somehow mysteriously managed to wrap themselves around one another… a tangled mess.

      My wife reckons it’s down to that Chinese gentleman who seems to visit our house regularly. But I’m with you mate… it’s a conspiracy I tell ya!!

      Cheers… Jim

  4. This may also be of interest. I read this week that there’s currently a draft European Union (EU) directive that should, amongst other things, create a common charger for all mobile phones sold in the EU to reduce waste, cost and hassle for users, according to Members of European Parliament (MEP’s). “No more having to have half a dozen different chargers on the go”. The draft directive lays down harmonised rules for placing radio equipment, including cellular telephones, car-door openers and modems, on the market. The draft law has been approved by MEP’s but still has to be formally approved by the European Council. Member states will have two years to transpose the rules into their national laws and manufacturers will have an additional year to comply.

  5. Well, you can subtract a few set of cables types (AC power cords and the associated WallWarts) that will ‘not’ be needed according to this (http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/14/tech/innovation/wireless-electricity/index.html?iid=article_sidebar) article.
    A company called WiTricity is said to be looking for EOMs to help develop products using their “Source Resonator” — a coil of electrical wire that generates a magnetic field when power is attached. They contend that their applied-for patents are not the same thing as what Tesla was attempting to do with alternating current transmissions. They vision that the whole house will be a magnetic resonator that will even do away with the power cord on your TV/PC

    In the mean time, I am not throwing out any of the boxes full of all sorts of cables (down to bare wires of all different AWG and color/price) just yet. Come to think of it, I am still going to retain the 2 boxes (breadbox size) that contain nothing but cable/twist ties and all sorts of velcro used for managing wire looms/harnesses! ­čśë

  6. I concur Jim- I also think that each manufacturer of these “planned obsolescence” items delivered to a landfill ought to be invoiced for it’s dumping.

    One thing, though, that’s at least a little helpful until they come around to a universal plug:

    buy a Brother labeler & label each cable & power adapter as soon as you get it home. Brother labels are laminated, so they don’t rub off & are more weather/temp proof than the others. It makes it so much simpler for me to pair up items like PC peripherals, etc…

    And, re: the tangled wire-web behind the furniture, this looks cool-


    easy to open when you need to change something. Actually, if you know someone who sews, it seems it would be easy to make your own with material of your choice & a long zipper?

    I use this:


    works well & tidies things up nicely.

    1. Well mate, that’s just bloomin’ marvelous! When the new USB cables come into play; older devices won’t connect to newer computers and newer devices won’t connect to older computers… terrific!!

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