Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Drowning in Electronic Clutter

Posted by hyperpat on February 5, 2007

Sometimes technology gets too enamored of itself for its own good. My family currently has four cell phones, a Game Boy, a Game Cube,  two laptops, two external disk drives, a couple of LAN adapters, and some remote control model vehicles, and each and every one of them has a different AC adapter brick (not to mention the car AC adapters for the phones). They output different voltages, have different connection plugs, are heavy, bulky, occupy way too much space in an outlet strip, ‘steal’ power if left plugged in, and are continuously getting lost. Add to this mess the various cables I need to keep track of to hook up my cameras to my computers (three different ones), the battery chargers, and the TV/DVD/Stereo remotes, the various specialized AC power cords for things like the PS2, and there are times when I when I think my living room is actually a Fry’s Electronics store.

Why can’t the various manufacturers of these things get together and standardize these things? Whatever voltage is needed by the actual circuits of these products could certainly be easily derived from a single 12V DC input (it basically calls for a single IC chip added to their internal circuitry). And if the adapters only output one voltage, there would be no need for having different connectors (the current set of different sized connectors is there for a good reason – to prevent you from plugging your phone or whatever into a voltage that it can’t handle and going up in smoke).  For that matter, the adapters should be able to handle the various standard AC voltages present around the world, so that when I go on overseas trips I wouldn’t have to take a gaggle of various step-down transformers. The same thing applies to those TV remotes – the current ‘universal’ things are either way too complex, don’t work with all equipment, or are way too expensive (or all three). The IR codes that TVs and such use should get a rake-over and get standardized, which would make producing a true universal remote a lot easier and cheaper. As far as the camera USB interconnects, there really is no excuse for the current plethora of different plugs – each one is merely a optional component selection by their designers, with no overriding technical reason for the differences.

But I guess this is one of the benefits of capitalism – everyone gets to do it their way, and us poor consumers take what we can get. And it won’t change until we revolt and quite buying all these neat gadgets until they do something about this mess – which might happen somewhere around Christmas 3001.

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