Welcome to a beginner’s guide and list of the types of computer connectors and cables. Over the many years in computer history, several different kinds of cables were invented and re-invented – There are so many these days that a beginner will be completely lost in the tech jungle. So just which connector is which? Read on to find out!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Useful Bits||The End|
Let us start with some of the basics – The trivial information that may be useful to you.
THE CABLE STANDARDS
We don’t just cut a random piece of wire, stick it into the computer, and cause an explosion. We usually identify cables and connectors using “strange numbers” such as RJ45, and there is no need to be worried – These are just standard codes. These are a few of the standards and organizations that you should be aware of:
- IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- USB IF – USB Implementers Frontier
- RJ – Registered Jack
- IEC – International Electrotechnical Commission
There is a “gender” in the world of connectors.
- The “male” part refers to the side with pins.
- While the “female” refers to the receptacle side.
Yep… it’s kind of an adult thing.
Now that we are done with the basics, let us move on to the display cables and connectors.
1) VIDEO GRAPHICS ARRAY (VGA)
This is one of the older display connectors, also sometimes called an “analog video connector”. This used to be everywhere in desktops and laptops, but as technology progressed, the VGA connector could no longer catch up with the crazy amount of video data. It was then taken over by the DVI and the much smaller HDMI connector.
2) DIGITAL VISUAL INTERFACE (DVI)
Following with a need for a cable that is capable of handling more video data, the DVI connector took over VGA. It was the “mainstream video connector” for a while, until the mobile market boom and realized that the size of the DVI connector is really no good for mobile devices. DVI is soon taken over by HDMI connectors.
3) HIGH DEFINITION MULTIMEDIA INTERFACE (HDMI)
The one the “common Joe” that you see everywhere these days, and it comes in various different sizes to fulfill the needs of various devices in the market. In particular, the 3 most common ones are:
- HDMI Type A: This is the full-sized HDMI that you see on desktops and some laptops.
- Mini HDMI Type C: For the smaller tablets and ultrabooks.
- Micro HDMI Type D: For mobile devices.
The DisplayPort is specially built for mobile devices, with a very small footprint. But this connector actually has an interesting idea behind it – It is not meant to function as a “direct connection”, but act as an interface to compliment the various kinds of connectors out there – DisplayPort to HDMI, DisplayPort to VGA, and so on.
Unfortunately, computer manufacturers did not give it a lot of love, and deemed that a direct connection is much more convenient; The DisplayPort remained not very popular despite the good intentions behind it.
Next, we move on with one of the most confusing parts of computer connectors – The many devices and miscellaneous connectors.
Once upon a time in the stone age of computers, we connect printers to computers using these parallel cables. They are built like tanks and wouldn’t even budge if you yanked hard at it. Of course, they could not handle large amounts of data fast enough and have been totally phased out.
The serial connectors are cousins to the parallel connectors – As some of you might have noticed, yes, these are the ancestors of the USB.
7) PERSONAL SYSTEM/2 (PS/2)
These are invented by IBM for their line of computers called Personal System, for the purpose of connecting the keyboard and mouse. It turned out to be a good idea, got adopted by many other manufacturers, and became the de facto standard – Until USB took over.
8) UNIVERSAL SERIAL BUS (USB)
I don’t think USB needs a lot of explanation, and you see these everywhere these days. But what you do need to know, is that there are so many types of USB that it is rather confusing.
- USB 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 – These are the versions of USB, and every later version of the USB simply supports a better data transfer rate.
- USB 3.1 & 3.2 – So-called better versions of USB 3.0. Offering faster data transfer, and also capable of handling more power for fast charging.
- Type A USB – The common Joe USB connector that you see everywhere, backward compatible.
- Type B USB – The “square type” connector that is commonly used for printers.
- Mini and micro Type B USB – Used for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and digital cameras.
- Type C – Also used for mobile devices, but this one is reversible. I.E. There is no direction, and you can plug this in upright or reversed.
9) FIREWIRE (IEEE 1394)
The FireWire is Apple’s so-called version of the USB – But this is not compatible with USB devices. While there are a couple of gadgets made for the FireWire, it was never too popular and was overshadowed by USB.
Following up with a not-so-popular FireWire, the Thunderbolt is the successor with a twist.
- Thunderbolt 1 & 2 – Adopted much of the DisplayPort technologies. The Thunderbolt port is a versatile one that can be used to output the video and devices can be connected to it as well.
- Thunderbolt 3 – If you can’t win them, join them. Apple finally cracked under pressure. A USB Type-C port with video output capabilities it is.
Well, the certain apple fruit company definitely has no love for the mainstream standards. The Lightning connector is mainly used for smartphones and tablets, which you can call an alternative to the type-C USB.
Now for the audio cables, which seems to be one of those that has not changed much since the old days.
12) 3.5MM AUDIO JACK
Yep, this is another one that is commonly seen everywhere. But notice those black stripes on the connector? The one with 2 black stripes is what we call a 3 pole connector, while the one with 3 stripes is called a 4 pole connector. The reason for that extra pole is because of an additional microphone on the earphones/headphones – So yep, they are different, and just be aware of this.
13) OPTICAL FIBER AUDIO CABLE
Unlike the traditional copper wires, this one uses light to transmit data, and thus called “optical fiber”. Although expensive, the reason why some people may choose optical fiber is that copper wires have a tendency to introduce noise (static sound) – Light signals do not, and that results in a cleaner plus clearer sound. Technically.
Networking cables have not changed much since the old days as well, maybe that is because most of it has gone wireless…
You might have seen this while connecting a wireless router to the modem. Yep, in the days where we do not have wireless yet, this is what we connect the PC to the router with. For those of you who want to sound more like legit mad engineers – The Ethernet standard is IEEE 802.3, and that connector is RJ45.
Well, you should know this from your home telephone and connected to AIO printers to send out fax. Mad engineers – The connector is RJ11.
16) FIBER OPTIC CABLE
When it comes to a faster Internet, electricity, and light are 2 of the fastest things that we know can be used to transmit data. But sadly, with our current level of technology, there is a limitation to using electrical copper wires. So the following generations of networking are moving towards using light and fiber optic cables.
For this final section, we will walk through the true survival of time – Power cords that have never changed since… forever.
17) POWER CORDS
The power cords of a computer actually comply with the IEC standards – That also involves almost all of our other household appliances. Here are 3 of the common power plugs that you see with computers:
- IEC 60320 C13 &C14: The standard plug for desktop computers. Also known as the “kettle plug”, because it looks just like the one we use for electrical kettles.
- IEC 60320 C5 & C6: This is the standard plug for the chargers of most laptops, also known as the “cloverleaf”.
- IEC 60320 C7 & C8: Yet another standard plug for the chargers of laptops and even some speakers.
18) DC BARREL JACK
The common Joe that you see everywhere in the world of electronics… But take note – Even though it looks the same, these actually come in different diameter sizes.
That’s all for this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.
LINKS & REFERENCES
- 16 Types of Computer Ports and Their Functions – Electronics Hub
- Computer Cable types and descriptions – HardSoft
- Different Types of computer connectors – IK Studies
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that this has helped you to better understand the various connectors, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and may the digital force be with you.