Universal Power Supplies


In 1998, Douglas Adams wrote a essay about the de facto Universal Power Supply - the in-car cigarette lighter.

He was half right. We've settled on USB as the standard  - simply because it's ubiquitous.

A few days ago, the ITU finally caught up with the rest of the world and endorsed micro-usb as the standard for all phone chargers.

Sam Manchin tweeted about now seeing USB charging stations in hotels.

In Hotel USB
In Hotel USB

For the last few years, every device I've bought has had a mini-usb charging port.  My phones, camera, BlueTooth headphones, spare phone battery etc.  It means I only need to take one charger on holiday. If i forget or lose it, I can guarantee that someone in the room will have a USB cable.

So, why am I a bit annoyed?

Well, I banked on mini-USB - the new standard is micro-USB.  Or is it the other way around? Either way, I'm stuck with devices which will either need little converter dongles or I can buy new kit.

New Vs Old
New Vs Old. Or vice-versa.

Now, there are some very good reasons why the new is better than the old.

  • More insertion cycles - you can plug it in and out several thousand times before it will break.
  • You'll have to buy newer kit
  • There's a grip on the bottom which means you need a bit more force to remove it - should stop accidental unplugging
  • It's orientation is less well defined, meaning you'll spend more time wondering which way up it goes.
  • It's smaller, meaning your new RAZR won't need to be any bigger than a wafer thin mint
  • It will charge things at 5V and 100 milli-amps.   Unless you're on USB 3.0, in which case it's 150 mA. Better make sure that your cables are forwards compatible.

So, there's some good and some bad.  Overall, I'm glad there's a standard - even if it is mildly inconvenient for me in the short term.

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