Over the years in computer history, many changes have taken place. And similarly, there are various kinds of cables that were invented and reinvented. These days, there are so many types of cables that a beginner will be completely lost in the tech jungle. Just which connector is which? It can get complicated, but worry not! As we will explain them in brief, it will be easy to understand.
In this article, we are going to talk about different types of computer connectors and also discuss what they are and how they work. So if you want to understand them too, read on to find out!
Basics of PC or Computer Connectors/Cables
Not everyone is tech-savvy and a go-ho when it comes to computer connectors and cables, right? So we are here to enlighten you about some types of connectors and commonly used cables. So computer cables aren’t just some random pieces of electrical wire. There are “strange numbers” such as RJ45 and IEC 60320 using which we can identify the different types of cables. You don’t have to be confused, as these are just standard codes by the various international organizations and the few that you should be aware of:
- IEC: International Electrotechnical Commission
- IEEE: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- USB IF: USB Implementers Frontier
- RJ: Registered Jack
Now that you have got an idea of what computer cables are and how they work, let’s get to the variety in them.
You might be wondering what cable has to do with gender? Well… it’s kind of an adult thing. In the world of connectors, there is also a “gender”.
- The “male” part is commonly referred to as a plug and has a solid pin for a center conductor.
- While “female” refers to the receptacle side or as a jack and has a center conductor with a hole in it to accept the male pin.
Now let’s see the types of Computer Connectors and Cables and how theta are used.
Different Types of Computer Connectors and Cables
There are different types of connectors and cables for different uses like – audio cables, display cables, device cables, networking cables, and power cables. So now, let’s get right into the explanation part and get the ball rolling!
There are many types of audio cables that we use in our day-to-day life. Now, we will be discussing some of them below and also describe their uses.
- 3.5MM Audio Jack: It is possible that you may have already heard of it. 3.5 MM Audio Jack is one of the commonly used connectors that can be seen everywhere.
But pay attention to the number of black stripes on the connectors. There are two types of 3.5 MM Audio Jack cables – one with 2 black stripes and the other one with 3 stripes. The 2 stripes cable is called a 3-pole connector, and the one with 3 stripes is called a 4-pole connector.
The extra pole in the 4-pole connector is given in order to support an additional microphone on the headphones or earphones. So make sure that you are aware of their differences.
- Optical Fiber Audio Cable: The Optical Fiber Audio Cable uses light to transmit data, unlike the traditional copper wires, and is thus called “optical fiber”.
Even though they are expensive, some people still tend to choose them because copper wires have a tendency to introduce static sounds like noise. Since light signals do not introduce noise, resulting in a cleaner sound.
Warning: Don’t stare into the ends of the optical fiber cable, some may use lasers, and it can blind people.
Just like audio cables, many of us use Display Cables of different varieties for the purpose of entertainment and work as well. Let’s talk about some of them.
- Video Graphics Array (VGA): This is one of the older display connectors, also called an “analog video connector”. It used to be everywhere on desktops and laptops, but the VGA connector could no longer catch up with the advanced video technologies. Later it was taken over by the DVI and HDMI connector.
- Digital Visual Interface (DVI): There was a need for a cable that is capable of handling more video data, the DVI connector took over VGA. Until the mobile market boom, Digital Visual Interface was the “mainstream video connector” for a while. Then DVI was soon taken over by HDMI and display port connectors as people realized in some time that the size of the DVI connector isn’t good for mobile devices.
- High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI): HDMI is the “common Joe” that you see everywhere these days, and it comes in different sizes as per the requirements and the needs of various devices in the market.
Basically, there are 3 most common ones:
- HDMI Type A: The full-sized HDMI that is used on desktops, TVs, and some laptops as well.
- Mini HDMI Type C: Used in the smaller tablets and Ultrabooks.
- Micro HDMI Type D: Used for mobile devices.
- Display Port: With a much smaller footprint, and much more suitability for mobile devices, the Display port can be called the “successor of the DVI cables.” The display port and HDMI cables carry both video and audio signals, and they are not categorized as “pure video cables”, but “audiovisual cables”.
Now it’s time to get a bit technical and discuss some important device cables and their uses.
- Parallel: In the Stone Age of computers, people used to connect printers to computers using parallel cables. They are built like tanks and wouldn’t budge if you yanked hard at them. They are basically a series of metal wires that enable multiple bits of data to be transferred simultaneously. Parallel cables have mostly given way to serial cables, where data is transferred one bit after another. Of course, they could not handle large amounts of data fast enough and have been totally phased out.
- Serial: A serial cable is a cable that is used to transfer information between two devices using a serial communication protocol. The serial connectors are cousins to the parallel connectors. And some of you may have noticed that these are the ancestors of the USB.
- Personal System/2 (PS/2): Invented by IBM for their line of computers called Personal System, these connectors were 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.
- Universal Serial Bus (USB): I don’t think there is a need to explain USB a lot, as they are used in every other place now and then. They are everywhere these days. But, you do need to know that there are so many types of USB, that it can rather get 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: Still USB 3. But offers faster data transfer, and is also capable of handling more power for fast charging.
- Type A USB: The common USB connector that you see everywhere and may even use yourself too.
- Type B USB: It is a “square type” connector that is commonly used for printers.
- Mini and micro Type B USB: They are used for mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and digital cameras.
- Type C: Type C is also used for mobile devices, however, this one is reversible. I.E. There is no direction, and you can plug this in upright or reversed.
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): IEEE 1394 is an interface standard for a serial bus for high-speed communications and real-time data transfer. It was developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Apple in cooperation with numerous companies, primarily Sony and Panasonic. Apple called the interface FireWire. It is Apple’s so-called early version of the USB, but it’s not compatible with USB devices. Even though there are a couple of gadgets that are made for the FireWire, it never got very popular unlike Apple’s other devices, and was overshadowed by USB.
- Thunderbolt: Following up with a not-so-popular FireWire, the Thunderbolt is the successor with a twist. And apart from just being its successor, it was successful overall as well.
- Thunderbolt 1 & 2: This successor adopted much of the DisplayPort technologies. It is a versatile port that can be used to not only connect devices, but also to output video as well.
- Thunderbolt 3: There is a saying in the competition that goes “If you can’t win them, join them”. And Apple finally cracked under pressure and did exactly that. This is pretty much a USB Type-C port with video output capabilities.
- Lightning: Lightning is the latest generation of iPhone/iPad connectors, and it is specific to Apple devices only. Well, the half-eaten fruit company certainly has no love for the mainstream standards.
Another important type of cable is networking. The Internet has almost become a need in today’s time with everything getting online. So in order to have a seamless experience, one needs to have a proper setup using cables. Let’s see what are those and their uses.
- Ethernet: It is possible that you may have seen the Ethernet cable around you – in your school’s computer lab, at the workplace, or while simply connecting a wireless router to the modem. During the old days, when there was nothing like a wireless network, this is what people used to connect the PC to the router. For those who want to know more technically about it, the standard for Ethernet is IEEE 802.3, and the connector is RJ45.
There are cat 5, cat 6, cat 7, and cat 8 Ethernet cables. The difference between them is in their supported bandwidth… You can get the latest cat 8 cables if you are unsure. They are backward compatible, technically.
- Telephone: Well, I think there isn’t much that needs to be explained about this, as I myself get nostalgic as I write about it. You should know this from your home telephone, and it is also connected to AIO printers to send out faxes. It is technically called RJ11.
- Fiber Optic Cable: Electricity and light are 2 of the fastest things when it comes to a faster Internet that we use to transmit data. However, sadly, copper wires are reaching the technical limitations for data transfer. The latest and newer generations of “serious networking devices” are skewed towards using fiber optic cables for ultra-fast data transfers.
Power cables are one of the most significant cables used worldwide (for now at least). Almost all the devices rely on charging, and so there are power cables for that. Let’s see their different types and talk about their uses.
- Power Cords: The power cords of a computer have to comply with the IEC standards, in order to be usable. And it is the same as almost all of our other household appliances. The three of the common power plugs that you see in computers are:
- IEC 60320 C13 &C14: It is the standard plug for desktop computers. It is also known as the “kettle plug”, because it looks just like the one we use for electrical kettles.
- IEC 60320 C5 & C6: This is one of the most common and standard plugs which is used 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.
- DC Barrel Jack: This one is a very common computer cable that you see everywhere in the world of electronics… But pay attention that even though it looks the same, these actually come in different diameter sizes.
Ans: There is also gender in the world of connectors. The male connector is commonly known as a plug, while a female connector is commonly referred to as a jack and has a center conductor with a hole in it to accept the male pin.
Ans: There are a variety of standards that the monitors use to connect to PCs, but the main ones are VGA, DVI, and HDMI. There’s also DisplayPort, which looks a bit like HDMI, but that’s still rare. If there’s a choice, they can use DVI or HDMI.