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A simple usabilty improvement for USB, “iThings”, and other connectors

October 29th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

USB and iThing ConnectorsI’m not sure why I never noticed before, but ever since I started using an iPhone, I’ve noticed one simple thing missing from the design of the 30 pin plug, a tactile feel. The same problem applies to the USB side of the same cable, and all other devices that have seemingly ever shrinking connectors.

Perhaps it is just me, but if you ever had to pause to insert that charging cable, dock connector, or whatever cable into a device, and then have to turn it over because you went to insert it the wrong way around, then you know what I am talking about.

If the manufacturers would just add a raised dot in place of the USB logo, the “iThing” logo, or whatever they use to show the proper orientation/insertion direction, it would eliminate this problem. I do believe I’ve seen some cables that have this, but not one of the dozens of USB, Firewire and “iThings” cables I have, have it. So, what do I do while the manufacturers neglect this little feature? I make them with a hole punch and some P-Touch tape. The tape from a P-Touch works very well, but other tapes may work fine as well. The idea is to get something that stays put, and has enough thickness that you can feel it.  The reason for the “hole” is that it has no hard edges or corners which would make the tape much easier to catch something and come off.

So, take a hole puncher, or, if you have a fancier punch tool (usually used for making holes in leather and other materials) you can alter the size and get a cleaner cut.  It is the hole that you are interested it. A toothpick comes in handy for removing the “hole” from the punch tool.

Hole Puncher
Fancy Hole Puncher

The little dots that come out of the punch are a small, so I’ve found that using a jeweler’s/precision flat-head screwdriver works well for applying it. Clean the connector with a bit of alcohol, let it dry, and apply the “hole” to the side with the logo on it, press firmly all around the edge and voilà, problem solved.

Precision Screw Driver with a

Using this, I don’t have to look for the little symbol in the dark when I plug it into the cable in my car.  I can feel that little raised dot, and, without a pause, know that I have the cable the right way to insert it.  Ahh, the little things in life…

Mini Display Connector

Do you have some simple little modification to an everyday device that makes your life just a little easier?
Please share you idea in the comments. Thank you!