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Connectors: A History of Their Technology?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the plug-away-on-a-slow-day dept.

Technology 598

dpbsmith asks: "It seems like a simple engineering problem--construct a device for easily and safely connecting several dozen wires at the same time--but the variety and creativity in their design over the years has been amazing, and, clearly there have been trends, fashions, and styles. In the fifties and sixties, virtually all connectors were roughly similar to the D-Sub design used for RS-232. A stiff, straight pin engaged a springy socket that contacted and bore against it on all sides. There were minor variations in shape and placement; the Amphenol Blue Ribbons (think Centronics), the connectors into which circuit boards engaged, but they were all variations on a theme. I was absolutely astounded the first time I saw a modular RJ-11 connector. Cheap, effective, and utterly unlike anything I'd ever seen before. Who invented these? Western Electric? Recently, we have the USB connector and the Firewire connector, obviously members of the same family (and a cheap-and-cheesy-seeming family it seems); on the other hand, my telephone and my digital camera have connectors that are very small and snap in with a positive lock that must be released with a squeeze, obviously yet another fundamentally different design. What do people know about the design, history, and engineering behind connectors over the years? Is it all hidden away, trade secrets of the connector companies, or is their a story that can be told?"

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598 comments

FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185216)

First post! I hope

Re:FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185220)

Only post too. Gues this topic is just not that interesting!

Re:FP (-1, Troll)

_Shorty-dammit (555739) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185241)

why does anyone give a rat's ass about being the first to post? I seriously don't see why...

Re:FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185356)

You must be new around here.

The eternal question... (4, Interesting)

DanCracker (245857) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185218)

If we're talking about connecters, we should take time to ponder the mystery of BNC connecters, their origins, and what the hell BNC stands for anyways!

BNC (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185223)

Is a merkin system to prevent themselves feeling impotent. It stands for Bomb Nuke and Crush. It stops them worrying about their teeny weenies.

Merkin Philosphy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185250)

He looked at me funny, bomb his country to glass.

Merkin Philosphy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185274)

Our president is a crook. Let's get into our expensive flying toy that cost millions at the expense of welfare, medicaid and education and throw bombs that cost as much as a sports car at foreign weddings. Dur.

Merkin Philsophy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185284)

It's almost a year since the Saudi's we paid to blow up our city did the deed. Let's start a new war, no one's paying us any attention.

Re:The eternal question... (2, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185224)

Bayonet Navy connector (originally
designed for military system applications during World War II)

Re:The eternal question... (5, Informative)

BiOFH (267622) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185353)

Sorry -- According to the one source no one seemed to bother with (Amphenol themselves) it is, as the coward pointed out, 'Bayonet Neill Concelman' and was named for Carl Concelman (and not Carl & Concelman).

This was an easy find:
http://www.amphenolrf.com/products/bnc.asp

Re:The eternal question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185363)

From http://neil.franklin.ch/Usenet/alt.folklore.comput ers/20000630_10_100BaseT_Why_RJ45_and_why_4_pair: BNC (bayonet Neill-Concelman) A miniature bayonet locking connector for coaxial cable. It was developed in the late '40s by a collaboration of Paul Neill and Carl Concelman. In 1942, while at Bell Labs, Paul Neill developed what became known as the type N connector, named after him, which became a U.S. Navy standard. Carl Concelman, while at Amphenol, developed a bayonet version of the N connector, which became known as the type C connector, after him (the first true 50-ohm connector). Then, together, they developed a miniature bayonet locking version of the C connector and it was named the type BNC connector, after both of them. There is even an improved threaded version called the threaded Neill-Concelman or TNC connector See BNC RF Connectors for additional details, and JCM for examples. [Thanks to all who wrote me to help clarify this correct meaning. My condolences to all, who with passion, conviction, and great creativity, truly believe differently. It is a sad but true tale that BNC does NOT stand for "baby N connector," or "bayonet connector," or "bayonet Naval connector," or "British Naval Connector" (sorry Microsoft). For further verification search the web for info on Paul Neill and Carl Concelman.]

Re:The eternal question... (2, Funny)

quakeroatz (242632) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185365)

Huh? Try Barrel Nut Connector. That's what BNC, in the RF sense, has always stood for.

Yes I'm sure there's a Bulgarian Nympho Club, but thats beside the point.

Re:The eternal question... (1)

Ark42 (522144) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185231)

Well according to everything2, its British Naval Connector, Bayonet Neill-Concelman, or Big Nobby Connector...


Take your pick

Re:The eternal question... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185259)

big n00b connector

Re:The eternal question... (2, Informative)

Link310 (453668) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185254)

My book of more network information than you can shake a stick at says:

Several possiblilities are usually suggested as to the origin of the term BNC:
- British Naval Connector
- Bayonet Nut Connector
- Cayonet-Neill-Concelman (probably the correct explaination somce the connector was named after Neill and Concelman, its two creators)

[Encyclopedia of Networking, v2. Tulloch and Tulloch]

Re:The eternal question... (1)

Link310 (453668) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185271)

Reading carefully improves the usefulness of the Preview button... /s/Cayonet/Bayonet/

Re:The eternal question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185283)

Or, if you are bored, /s/[0-9a-zA-Z\.!?]/[a-zA-Z0-9!?\.]/

Re:The eternal question... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185257)

AAAAAAAannnnnnnnnh!

It is Bayonet Eill Concelman and named for amphenol's Carl Concelman.

Re:The eternal question... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185272)

Damn you sticky 'n'.

I meant 'Neill'

Re:The eternal question... (2)

tap (18562) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185333)

There are other RF connectors like BNC, but with some feature different. For instance, there is a TNC connector [telexwireless.com] that's the same size but has threads instead of a bayonet mount. Seems logical that B and T stand for Bayonet and Threaded, doesn't it? There is also an N connector [telexwireless.com] that looks like a TNC but is much larger. That's probably where the "Baby N Connector" version of what BNC stands for came from.

Re:The eternal question... (1)

-Surak- (31268) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185373)

Except N connectors are threaded, not bayonet. Here's another question... why is it called "bayonet", anyway? Is is similar to the way that a bayonet was (is?) attached to a rifle?

To add to your list of confusing connectors, there are also reverse-polarity variations of TNC and BNC, and probably others. One particularly obnoxious use of these connectors is for the antennas on the Linksys 802.11 hubs.

Re:The eternal question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185460)

Here's another question... why is it called "bayonet", anyway? Is is similar to the way that a bayonet was (is?) attached to a rifle?

Yes.

Re:The eternal question... (2, Informative)

KaiKaitheKai (531398) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185357)

BNC stands for Bayonet Neill-Concelman. The names British Naval Connector or Bayonet Nut Connector are sometimes used but are not correct. The connectors were named after their creators; Neill designed the "N-type" connector and Concelman designed the "C-type" connector. The BNC is a hybrid "N/C-type" with a mechanical extra; the bayonets.

Re:The eternal question... (2)

K8Fan (37875) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185401)

This one has been debated for years, and was a thread in the letters column of an IEEE magazine. One claimant named Robert who worked for Amphenol said he designed it on his kitchen with his wife said they dubbed it "B.N.C." for "Bob and Nancy's Connector".

Most of the ones like "Bayonet Nut Connector" and "British Nautical Connector" were proven to be retcons - for instance, it was manufactured in the US long before there were any British manufacturers.

Linux version of Tetris released (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185222)

Although it doesn't yet run on all distributions, the popular (and addictive!) puzzle game was today released to an ecstatic Linux community.

"See? You don't need 'Windoze' (as we all call it) to run great games!" one Linux user reported from his parent's basement.

A large-scale circle-jerk followed, but unfortunately most were not able to climax due to driver-related problems.

Okay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185225)

Connector fetishist detected. =)

Re:Okay... (1)

pato perez (570823) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185355)

I'm sure it's the male/female thing

Necessity is the mother of all invention (1)

G0SP0DAR (552303) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185226)

I don't know exactly who invented manifold connectors, but it was probably someone who got tired of using his fingers as conductors.

jesus loves you, babe (-1)

SweetAndSourJesus (555410) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185227)

I just want to get you into bed.

Just Asking For Trolls (1, Offtopic)

jonman_d (465049) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185229)

Is it me, or does anyone feel like this article was just begging for immature teenager trolls?

Or... (1)

grant+harris (603582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185232)

Or the poorly designed IDE cables and connectors...

Re:Or... (2)

SimonK (7722) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185253)

They're OK as long as the manufacturers build them with keys. Without keys they are a veritable PITA.

Re:Or... (1)

baldeep (213585) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185371)

I'm not sure whether it's the cable, connector, or the lack of termination in the standard but IDE is notoriously bad. There's a reason they're limited to 18 inches--the reactance of longer cables would be unmanageable without termination.

Fair point (2)

SimonK (7722) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185428)

I've spent many unhappy hours trying to get the IDE cables from the interfaces on the motherboard to the disk 18.1 inches away :(

Cable connections (2, Informative)

PDX (412820) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185234)

You can find more info in the Cable FAQ through Google.

Re:Cable connections (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185317)

I love it when a question that is easily answered by a simple google search gets to be a story on slashdot!

positive lock (1)

JonOnSlashdot (591628) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185236)

what would we do with out that locking thing on RJ-45 or RJ-11 cables???

Re:positive lock (1)

MattCohn.com (555899) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185305)

Wonder why our phones never worked?

Re:positive lock (1)

Fembot (442827) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185331)

Why are they called RJ-45 and RJ-11... are the numbers significant? And perhap the awnswer to that would help to explain if there were any other RJ-XX connectors????

Re:positive lock (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185393)

well, RJ45 is network cable, and RJ11 is telephone cable... theres a slight difference there.

Re:positive lock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185405)

RJ-12 is used for the phone cable between the handset and the body of the phone

Apple's connectors (2, Funny)

CySurflex (564206) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185240)

Ben Brown obviously likes big connectors http://www.benbrown.com/switch/ [benbrown.com]

Re:Apple's connectors (1)

ogre2112 (134836) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185381)

ROFL. THank you, that made my day.

Mod this shit +5 Funny =)

game reference (4, Interesting)

iocat (572367) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185249)

One of the coolest things about connectors is that the Atari 2600, C64 and Sega Genesis all had the same 9-pin connector. You can hook a Genesis pad up to your 2600 and it works well (B is the only button that works, along with the D-pad). There's even a hack for making the Genesis pad work with the two-button 7800 -- sadly I can't find the link atm. Coolest thing I've seen recently is a converter that lets you use PlayStation dual-analog controllers on the Atari 5200. I believe I saw something about it here [atariage.com] .

connector genders (5, Funny)

lingqi (577227) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185261)

I was six when i first heard of the term "male" and "female" connectors. Even though I keep pestering my dad about
1) which one is male / female, and
2) why they name it something stupid like that

he just kept "umm... ahhh"-ing and never answered.

I was like 17 when it finally dawned on me why they named it that way. ha! then it all made sense.

moral of the story are:
a) who says electrical engineers / connector designers are not perverted?
b) to save yourself trouble, don't talk about male/femail connectors in front of little kids.

Re:connector genders (1)

Suicide (45320) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185276)

Ok, I understand that we all all geeks here, but you didn't get it until 17? Dang man, you needed to get out more ah a teenager...

Well I ain't not geek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185427)

I understand that we all all geeks here, but you didn't get it until 17?

I think I was 28 when I figured out you're not supposed to put a rubber on the male connecter and now I'm starting to suspect the lube isn't such a good idea either. The damn things just keep poppin' off...

Re:connector genders (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185322)

so, it wasnt until 17 that you realized girls had vaginas and boys had penises?

wow , i feel for you.

Re:connector genders (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185332)

Vaginas and penises? What are you a doctor or something? They're called dicks and pussies

Re:connector genders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185367)

Yes, if you want to show how much of a degenerate you are by using slang whenever remotely possible.

Re:connector genders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185462)

Plural? Where do you live?

Re:connector genders (1, Flamebait)

Ozan (176854) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185328)

moral of the story are:
a) who says electrical engineers / connector designers are not perverted?
b) to save yourself trouble, don't talk about male/femail connectors in front of little kids.

c) to save yourself big trouble teach your children the difference between man and woman before they are 17. Otherwise they might think that just using the fact that men have a penis and women a vagina in a metaphorical way is perverted.
Or just get real.

Re:connector genders (2)

Wumpus (9548) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185340)

a) who says electrical engineers / connector designers are not perverted?

Let that be a letton to y'all, folks: If your kid asks you a simple question, that has a perfectly simple answer, and the only answer you can provide is "ummm... ahhh", your kid is going to grow up into someone who thinks that the mechanics of human sexual behavior is "perverted".

Re:connector genders (1)

IGu (596616) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185372)

In Romania they got evenfurther, they are called 'mother' and 'father'... imagine what i fought at 14 !

Crude Tech jokes (2)

fm6 (162816) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185377)

(Bad spelling is traditional on /., but "male/femail" is a bit much!)

Yeah, the pornographic nature of electrical connectors is pretty strange and amusing. One wonder how the bluenoses let this happen!

Another example: joystick. These were originally invented for high-accelleration aircraft, where the pilot was subjected to G-forces that prevented him (it was always a him, of course) from lifting his hands out of his lap. So they invented a flight control that consisted of a simple stick between the pilots legs. The masturbation metaphor was unavoidable, but where were the censors when all this was a happening? This was the 1950s and America was overrun with Guadians of Virtue. I guess the only answer is that GoVs are just plain dense!

Re:connector genders (3, Funny)

K8Fan (37875) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185422)

The real mystery is why a female panel connector is called a "jack".

I remember being embarrassed the first time I had to explain the difference between "male" and "female" connectors when I was in high school.

Re:connector genders (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185451)

Geeze, maybe if people didn't go "ummm ahhh" whenever sex comes up, it wouldn't be so perverted. I mean, we're all created through sex, you'd think we could talk about it frankly.

Personally, I just call them CUNTS and COCKS (as in, hey mom, you're having trouble with your iMac? Make sure the COCK of the mouse is firmly inserted into the CUNT of the keyboard.) What could be simpler?

Connector technology (4, Interesting)

base3 (539820) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185262)

A more egregious example of the connector conspiracy [tuxedo.org] : Dell's innovative arrangement [upgradinga...ingpcs.com] of the pins on the standard ATX power supply connector (e.g. the swapping of +12V with ground). The result is that upgrading or replacing the power supply with a non ($$$) Dell model will result in a short, and possibly a fire.

Perhaps they should rename themselves "Packard Dell."

Honestly.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185266)

who gives a flying fuck?

Re:Honestly.. (1)

JonOnSlashdot (591628) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185297)

i do...i find this really interesting..it may be simple but we use them everyday, and with out them our cables would just fall out.

Re:Honestly.. (0, Offtopic)

JonOnSlashdot (591628) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185312)

dont mind me im on crack

Re:Honestly.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185308)

err... a flying bitch? :o)

Power supply adapters and plugs... (3, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185270)

Talking about connectors, one thing that really mades me mad is the amount of power supply adapters we have to have these days. My office floor is littered with them, for net routers, printer, laptops, displays, mobiles etc. etc. Why can't we have two circuits? And for that matter, why are electric plugs so big. In the UK the are enormous. Many things these days only take a tiny bit of power - can't we have smaller electrical plugs? On my travels it seems that in the rest of the world electrical plugs are pretty big too. Is there anywhere with little dainty ones and without huge power adapters? Japan perhaps?

One thing (2)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185277)

Miniaturizing transformers is really expensive - having those devices come with smaller transformer would noticably add to the price of the device.

Re:One thing (1)

rongage (237813) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185387)

It's also quite hard to get any decent levels of current flow out of a "mini" transformer. By decent, I mean an amp or more. Mini transformers, even split bobbin types, typically use #36 AWG wire or smaller. It's dangerous to try to get even half an amp to flow through wire that small...

However, if holding a house warming party and inviting the local fire department is your idea of fun, go for it...

Higher frequency AC (1)

baldeep (213585) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185390)

It might be easier if we switched from 60Hz to something around 20kHz.

Ok, so let me get this straight (4, Funny)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185412)

It might be easier if we switched from 60Hz to something around 20kHz.

You want to overclock the power lines?

Re:One thing (1)

Koyaanisqatsi (581196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185394)

The poster was talking about the *plugs*, not transformers. But I should say that given the high voltages (high for the human body, that is), the plugs must be quite large to guarantee a certain level of mechanical sturdiness. I don't want to have a RJ45-sized 100v plug for fear it may someday break when I plug it in.

On the other hand, It could be interesting to have one and only one DC standard and have a "DC mains" through the house, with its own connector style. Then you don't need a transformer for your cellphone charger, diskplayer, etc. Just plug it on the wall with cable only. Neat, and the transformers in the wall could be way more efficient than the average Chinese DC converter. (and yes, I know that's for low currents only, for safety reasons)

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (1)

grant+harris (603582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185282)

North American plugs are resonably small.

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (1)

grant+harris (603582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185294)

It's much cheaper to create a universal product with an external transformer then an internal one. This allows the manufacturer to create on single universal product and supply the appropriate power supply based on the region.

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (2, Insightful)

resonance (106398) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185318)

I think he means the plug that goes into the AC power outlet itself. They are pretty big and chunky. Personally, I've always thought the plugs used in the US (edison plugs) are pretty crummy in design. Until the fortuitous addition of a bigass ground pin, they always fall out of the damn outlet, or pop out halfway to let things short out. There are sooooo many better designs, but shit, the installed base is big big big.

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (2)

pubjames (468013) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185336)

I think he means the plug that goes into the AC power outlet itself.

Yep, that was one of my gripes. The other was the power adapters. I know nothing about electronics, but wouldn't it be possible to have a house with two circuits, one with big plugs for the stuff that needs more power, and another with little plugs which where the electricity has already been 'transformed' (yes, I'm really that clueless) for all the other stuff.

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (1)

resonance (106398) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185358)

Interesting idea, having "pre-transformed" power in a house. A low-voltage power infrastructure. It makes sooo much more sense since there are so many low-power devices in use in the home these days. 120vac at 60hz was originally designed to easily run big motors and heating elements, not cmos chips.

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185374)

you are clueless, heh not trying to be mean but... you cant just have a high power and low powered plug, it will still have to be converted because there are so many different voltage ranges in products, so to do what you're saying, each socket in your house would have to have like 40 different plugs, each labeled their amperage/voltage.

Maybe if they had smart sockets, sockets with built in transformers, and every plug emits a RF code which the transformer picks up, which tells the transformer what power range is needed, and then the socket itself steps down the power for the device. but that would mean every new device would need a special new plug, and every socket would need to be upgraded , etc

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (2)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185416)

12vdc > 5vdc takes less of a transformer than 129vac > 5vdc

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185342)

MOST things may require very little power, but you have to allow for the maximum requirement when designing a plug. In the US, that means 15 amps. A smaller plug would melt.

However, I do agree that it should be some federal regulation or something that AC/DC transformers have extensions on them and not just the pins sticking out making them take up 3 plugs. (AKA wall warts)

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185345)

electrical plugs in the UK are fused. They are larger, but inherently safer.

Re:Power supply adapters and plugs... (1)

wbackous (41573) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185348)

The US has fairly small plugs for most 110V things. 220V items (clothes dryers come to mind) use very large plugs, though.

What is annoying is the transformer-plug combos. I can deal with an in-line transformer, but when the transformer is the size of my foot AND is also the plug that I am supposed to plug into a full powerstrip it sucks.

AMP (2, Informative)

digitect (217483) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185307)

My father worked for AMP [amp.com] for 25 years. They were a leader in all sorts of electronic connections until just a few years ago when Tyco purchased them to try and run them into the ground like everything else they touch. We had more AMP connectors in our garage than most people have ever seen; it was cool.

To this day I still find AMP connectors in common appliances, computers, automobiles, watches... pretty much everything that requires an electrical connector.

RJ-xx's suck (2, Insightful)

mscalora (226843) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185327)

Those RJ-xx's suck. They guys who invented them should not be blamed, they are great for things like phones that you only need to plug and unplug once a year or so. Now, we use them for modems and networks that we plug and unplug all the time, the damn release thingy only last a 100 or so unplugs. Also, we you pull the cable through a rats nest, they catch and break off. The guys who started using them with ethernet should be shot. There have got to be lots of other connectors that would have been better.

-Mike

If amoebas ruled the world ... (0, Offtopic)

ez76 (322080) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185329)

If amoebas ruled the world, would wireless networking have been invented much sooner?

Could Wired be any more prissy? (5, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185330)

I was absolutely astounded the first time I saw a modular RJ-11 connector. Cheap, effective, and utterly unlike anything I'd ever seen before. Who invented these? Western Electric?

Ignore the 'being digital' crap and read this [mit.edu] ...

Think of it: the lowest common denominator in being digital is not your operating system, modem, or model of computer. It's a tiny piece of plastic, designed decades ago by Bell Labs' Charles Krumreich, Edwin Hardesty, and company, who thought they were making an inconspicuous plug for a few telephone handsets. Not in their wildest dreams was Registered Jack 11 - a modular connector more commonly know as the RJ-11 - meant to be plugged and unplugged so many times, by so many people, for so many reasons, all over the world.

Re:Could Wired be any more prissy? (1)

tijsvd (548670) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185368)

Very cool. MIT slashdotted from a comment!

Re:Could Wired be any more prissy? (3, Interesting)

xA40D (180522) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185432)

Some hotels still don't have such auxiliary jacks in the handsets, offering the lesser convenience of the RJ-11 in the wall. But because hotel managers also have learned that constant use breaks the clip, many cut it off, making the plug a onetime "permanent" connection, never to come out again. That is inexcusable. Even the most benign digerati will use anything from a penknife to a corkscrew to reopen the jack, the effect of which is well deserved but devastating. Get with it, hotels.

Intrestingly, here in the UK the agency responsible for licencing telecommunications equipment insist that consumer equipment have the RJ-11 clips clipped.

As for plugging into the wall we've of these weird BT designed things which are slightly bigger than the RJ-11. The nice thing is that they are made of a less brittle plastic, so are not as prone to breaking. They also tend to lie flat so are not quite as painfull to stand on. (alas my young son has found my stash of RJ-45s, so my feet still hurt).

Not circular! (2, Insightful)

3141 (468289) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185341)

A request to any who would design a new connector:

Unless it's a one-pin "jack" based connector, please don't make it circular. Circular connectors are a real pain - think of the PS/2 mouse (and keyboard) connector. Which angle do you put it in? Try, it doesn't work. Rotate... it doesn't work. Rotate again... you get the idea.

Even an arrow on the "up" part doesn't work, as often the socket is mounted at a funny angle.

That's all.

Who invented (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185346)

Well, it sure as hell wasn't a euro-peon. Those socialist, lazy fucks are too busy hanging out in cafes and being jealous of America.

This is kinda like.... (1)

Hamfist (311248) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185349)

Navel Gazing for geeks :)

RJ-11 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185352)

was invented by a chinese company.
RJ stands for Rong-zuku-ma Janoko-hung-chui - blue butterfly.
The name is in fact a pun with a famous (at least in China) childrens story called "the 11 butterflies".
Yes, that's a rather sad attempt at humor, but keep in mind that they were only at the beginning of their industrialization at this time.

USB-style plugs -- made for hot-swapping (5, Informative)

Bleck (203017) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185360)

While the original article states that USB and Firewire-style connectors appear to be part of a "cheap-and-cheesy-seeming family it seems," keep in mind that these plugs have a specific purpose: they can be hot-plugged (both in terms of the computer sensing the connection, and more importantly, in terms of being powered on at the time) without risk to the electronics.

One of the main problem in many old-style plugs was that if you had power running through them, and the wrong pin touched first, you flash-fried your electronics. Although RS-232 and similar connectors attempted to have all pins touch at once, it was a touch-and-go thing ... it could work 9 times out of 10, and then on the 10th, you've fried your motherboard :)

USB (and many newer connections) ensure that your ground and power connect appropriately, so that you don't have current running in bad places :) Their exact design may be up for debate, but that one nice little feature is why it's so easy to have (say) your truly plug-and-play USB hard drive -- all the components can be already up and running, and you don't have to worry about powering down the system to connect them and have everything recognized.

Anyway, long post about a small topic :) But it's something!

--Tom

awkward transition to... (4, Funny)

jukal (523582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185364)

Now I know how to explain my kids how babies are made. Look, son, here is the RS-232 and it's counterpart, here is RJ45, you plug it in like this - now this, my son, is something really special - a RJ11.

When you connect this with the other gender, these tiny little bursts of electricity flow into the female connector. The female then processes the information and squirts the results out via a RS-232 connector - this may be messy....next day, son, we will cover gender changers.

Now *that* is a geeky question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185370)

Not to say: straight out nerdy... we're not worthy! We're not worthy! :) Next question: what smells better: a new book or an old Vax?

here's a good connector (-1)

Anonymous Pancake (458864) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185382)

check out this connector [stilemedia.com]

Woah... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185429)

It that pic from a staff meeting at the Slashdot compound?

Cheap and cheesy? (1)

Patik (584959) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185384)

How are USB and Firewire connections cheesy? They're unidirectional, very compact (yet not delicately small), and are multipurpose (they transfer power and great bandwidth, plus they can be used for many different devices), and they lock into place with out any special spring-loaded tabs.

RJ-11 and RJ-45, on the other hand, has that unsafe springy tab -- ask any college student how many times he/she had to take a network cable out of his/her backpack before it finally caught on a zipper and snapped right off, only to leave the user with a plug that will no longer stay secure in the LAN card. (Answer: very few times.) USB/Firewire connectors are much more durable and solid.

Re:Cheap and cheesy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185443)

You just answered your own question.

The reason why USB and quite possibly Firewire are cheesy is because of just that - you can yank the cord right out if you're not careful. Serial and parallel ports have screws on the side of them, RJ-11/45 has a tab, PS/2 is difficult to pull out, etc. etc.

its all about money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4185395)

They where invented so you have to pay (now days)100 times more than what the wire costs (usb)And of couse for people who don't know how to use a screw driver. they sure are slick though.

Next /. news piece... why beige computers

Favorite connector (2, Interesting)

rongage (237813) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185441)

Personally, my favorite connector has to be the Camlok E-series power connector. There is just something "interesting" about a connector that is rated for 400+ amps of current flow. And just TRY to break one or pull it off the wire...

For multipin, I would have to say that the old IBM Latchback connectors are tops on my list. 240+ pins, all designed to mate at the same time, all gold plated, and designed for low level signals (unamplified audio for example). Single cam based latching mechanism, keyed, and easily maintainable.

Of course, if you have never work in a concert hall, you probably will NEVER see any of these connectors in real life....

Connectors in my PC (5, Interesting)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 11 years ago | (#4185463)

Hmm... I'll waste some time here and assign grades to the connectors in my PC on a scale of 1 to 10:

  • Keyboard/mouse DIN - 5. Works OK, but hard to orient. Making mouse and keyboard identical was stupid. Feel not very satisfying.
  • AC Power cord to power supply - 9. Very satisfying feel. Easy to use.
  • AC Power cord to wall outlet - 6. A true classic. Rated down because of childhood memories of annoying transition to 3-prong grounded outlets. Could have used better protection against fingers/children.
  • 1/8-inch audo jacks - 8. Easy to use. It would be better if all audio equipment would use the same connector (i.e., no 1/4-inch or RCA jacks).
  • USB connector - 9. Sure beats previous solutions. Would be nice if the up/down orientation distinction was more obvious.
  • RJ-11/RJ-45 modem/network - 8. Very convenient; elegant design. Achilles heel: if you try to pull the cable out of a tangle of wires, you're likely to break the little retaining tab and ruin the cable.
  • 15-pin VGA video - 5. Hard to orient, screws are inconvenient (but easier than the 3-BNC connector alternative). Technical achievement award to those who figured out how to kludge 1600x1200 signal frequencies through this thing.
  • 9-pin serial connector - 3. Boring. Same problems as VGA. Should have been done with 2 or 3 pins. (Old larger serial connectors rate a 1 for total overkill.)
  • Parallel printer connector - 1. Choosing to save money by not putting a shift register in the printer was one of the most unfortunate decisions in the history of personal computing. How many kilotons of copper have been needlessly wasted on all those wires? Cable is thick, heavy and expensive. This is a classic example of how the marketplace can converge on a suboptimal solution and then get locked in.
  • Centronix printer connector - 1. See previous entry. This end is especially bulky and cheap feeling, to boot.
  • Internal IDE connection - 3. Ribbon cable is hard to manage. Master/slave business is a hassle. Doesn't seem to be a clear standard on orientation keying. Hard to tell when properly seated. Max length too short.
  • Internal SCSI connection - 3. Same problems as IDE (except for length limitation), plus additional confusion over terminations, ID numbers, and incompatible speeds and widths.
  • CD-ROM audio - 6. Not too bad, once you track down where the connection is on the motherboard.
  • Hard drive power. - 9. Surprisingly easy to use, given the amperage it must support. The twisting behavior is really nice. I've never had problems with these.
  • Motherboard power - 7. Doesn't stand out much, no big problems.
  • Misc motherboard stake pin connections - 2. No physical alignment constraints and poor silkscreen markings make these a big hassle.
  • ISA Slots - 3. The lack of a proper mechanical specification for these caused a lot of alignment headaches. It's a good thing you could use the slot screw to get the thing all the way in with brute force. Things got better once most cards shrunk to the size of a business card; less to go wrong.
  • PCI Slots - 6. Relatively unexciting.
  • PCMCIA Slots - 8. I'm amazed at how all of those tiny pins connect without getting crushed. Good feel, ejection button is fun.
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