1406: Universal Converter Box

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Universal Converter Box
Comes with a 50-lb sack of gender changers, and also an add-on device with a voltage selector and a zillion circular center pin DC adapter tips so you can power any of those devices from the 90s.
Title text: Comes with a 50-lb sack of gender changers, and also an add-on device with a voltage selector and a zillion circular center pin DC adapter tips so you can power any of those devices from the 90s.


Converter boxes are used to connect two or more devices together which otherwise couldn't be, due to differently shaped plugs, different voltages, or different protocols of communication.

Converter boxes or converter cables are commonly found for several of the plugs at the top of the list - such as from USB to micro-USB. As this is supposed to be a Universal Converter Box, there are many connections.

The humour from this comic comes from the sheer number of different standards that all claim to be the universal way to connect two devices, in their target market, as well as the progressively ridiculous conversions that this box is capable of doing, for example, converting audio from a 1/8 inch / 3.5 mm headphone jack, into a variety of fuel suitable for running your car.

A connector is capable of making a connection to another connector only if the connectors are of the same style and the opposite gender ("male" connector is plug, "female" connector is socket), except for rare "genderless" connectors, such as the token ring mentioned above. Gender changers are devices with two connectors of the same gender. The "circular center pin DC adapter tips" in the title text are barrel jack power plugs. There are a large number of these style connectors, and many of these devices look the same, leading to frustration.

Different connectors[edit]

The plugs are numbered from top to bottom and incremented for every wire that comes directly out of the converter box.

Left side[edit]

  1. VGA (Video Graphics Array): This a video connector (standard is blue) that connects computers and monitors or projectors. It has fifteen pins in a D-shell. It's still one of the common type of video connectors.
  2. DVI (Digital Visual Interface): This a video connector (standard is white) that uses a D-shell with flat pins. DVI is not compatible with VGA ports,
  3. HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface): This is an audio video connector that supports high definition video and audio.
  4. Thunderbolt: Thunderbolt can transfer both video signals to a monitor, audio signals to speakers, and send and receive data at the same time, over the same port.
  5. Firewire (IEEE 1394): A bidirectional data transfer connector, similar to USB, Firewire is used for networking computers, and connecting audio/video equipment to computers.
  6. Component and RCA: Both component video and RCA are ways of transmitting video and audio signals. RCA is the name of the connector type. RCA uses one plugs per audio channel (e.g. left and right channels). RCA (composite) uses one plug for video where component uses three: Y (luma), Pb (Blue - Y), Pr (Red - Y).
  7. 1/8" audio/video (3.5 mm phone connector): Best known as a headphone plug, but also used for other audio equipment and for some video equipment.
  8. Parallel port: A port that used to be used to connect printers to PCs.
  9. S-video: A video with the video signal split in Y (luma) and C (chroma).
  10. Airline pneumatic tube audio: The seat would contain the loudspeaker, and the headphone connected to this unit with a pneumatic tube to conduct the sound.
  11. PS/2, PS/3 and PS/4: The PS/2 connector was used for mouse and keyboard connections in older computers; it has been superseded by USB. There are no PS/3 or PS/4 connectors. This is a play on the PlayStation line of video game consoles, which have recently seen their second, third, and fourth generations abbreviated to PS2, PS3, and PS4.
  12. 120V AC: This style of plug is used for domestic power outlets in the US, Canada, Mexico, and some other parts of the Americas. The pin marked "removable" is the ground pin. Not every device requires a ground pin, and some older power sockets do not have a hole for it.
  13. Floppy, IDE, 2.5", SCSI: These are IDC connectors for connecting to media drives to processors using different numbers of pins, and hence different widths of cable. Despite this similarity, real plugs would not work with break-away parts as the pinout has no similarities and the connectors are keyed differently.

Right side[edit]

  1. USB: Also known as USB-A. USBs are used for connecting various devices to computers, each other, and to power supplies and chargers. The USB standard has multiple connectors. Some of the others are below.
  2. USB (weird other end): Also known as USB-B.
  3. mini-USB/micro USB: Alternate smaller connections for USB communication.
  4. macro USB: A joke about a larger version of USB.
  5. F connector: A type of coaxial plug used for various television signals and for cable modems.
  6. Fiber: Optical fiber cables are used for various data transmission purposes and are often connected to devices with only a connector on the device, and none on the cable.
  7. RJ11/Ethernet: Ethernet connections, which use a TIA/EIA-568 connector (often mistakenly called RJ45 because of its visual similarity), are the most common fixed wire connection for computer networking. The RJ11 connector is used for land-line telephones.
  8. Token ring: The token ring was a late-80s competitor to Ethernet for fixed-wire network connections. Its connectors were large and boxy, but were unique in that they were genderless.
  9. MagSafe: Magnetically-attached power connectors used on Apple devices. The original MagSafe (introduced in 2006) was later replaced by MagSafe 2 (introduced in 2012); both come in "L" and "T" shapes as shown here for MagSafe and MagSafe 2, respectively, but are incompatible. MagSafe 3 and 4 do not actually exist yet (and probably never will, now Apple is using USB-C to charge its laptops). The MagSafe 3 charger appears to resemble the Apple Watch charger, interestingly. Also, the MagSafe 4 "connector" appears to be broken this is a joke about the poor quality of the original MagSafe 1 cables.
  10. Bluetooth dongle: A USB device that allows the converter to connect via the Bluetooth wireless networking standard to accessories like phones and computers for audio, general purpose file transfer, mouse and keyboard interaction and a wide variety of other uses.
  11. SCART: An audio/video connector mostly used in Europe; it replaced other connectors like component video, but has itself been superseded by HDMI.
  12. String: For connecting to a "tin can telephone", an analogue device for transmitting sound through a physical connection rather than electronically or via radio waves. Probably also a reference to CAN bus.
  13. Fuel nozzle, with a switch to choose between different octane ratings and diesel fuel: Dispensers for fossil fuels used to power internal combustion engines. Presumably, this would be the gasoline/petrol tip [see trivia].


For some interfaces, such as USB, the female side is standard to the device while the male side is standard to the cable. For other interfaces, such as the RS-232 serial port, the conventions vary or there is no convention.

The "universal" connector here doesn't support the proper RS-232, with the closest surrogate available being RJ-11. The other nearest analog would be the parallel port, available in Centronix and D-25-pin connectors.

The SCSI connectors have been available as the "internal" connectors (see the "break-away" above) of 2 different widths, Centronix, 2 widths of the mini-D connectors with the easily bendable pins, 3 widths of the more reliable pin-less mini-connectors, and high-speed serial.

Not only is there gender and connector type, but there are also different standards on what data/power is connected on each pin of the connector. Building a working connection often involved getting 3 or 4 adapters connected in a sequence to produce the right connector, gender and pin-out.

Barrel jack power plugs were developed in the 1980s. The "barrel" has an inner diameter an outer diameter, and different style pins.

A D-shell is a trapezoidal metal skirt that protects the pins, prevents the connector from being plugged in the wrong way, and makes the physical connection more secure.

A VGA was developed in 1987, and with new versions being developed since then.

DVI can be configured to support multiple modes such as DVI-D (digital only), DVI-A (analog only), or DVI-I (digital and analog).

HDMI has slowly been replacing DVI and VGA ports on newer devices due to the simplicity and the smaller footprint and overall dimensions.

Thunderbolt is far faster than almost any connector on the market for transferring data. However, the limited adoption by manufacturers, the higher costs of the hardware, and the security concerns inherent to the interface have limited the adoption by consumers.

Because Firewire is designed to allow backplane access and direct memory access (DMA) to devices, there are additional conversion and security issues with it.

The phone connector diameter of 1/8" is only an approximation using Imperial units. The standard actually specifies a size in the Metric system of 3.5 mm. The video plug has 3 contacts (Tip, Ring and Sleeve) and the audio has 4 contacts (Tip, Ring, Ring and Sleeve).

While no longer common in homes or offices, parallel connections are still used in some embedded systems.

Airline pneumatic tube audio was used by in-flight entertainment systems manufactured from 1963 until 1979.

Note that while AC adapters are necessary—and widely available—to suit sockets in other countries, this "universal" converter does not feature any other AC power plugs, but this could be accommodated using adapters.

Cheater plugs exist to connect a NEMA grounding-type plug (three prongs) to a NEMA non-grounding receptacle (two slots), but the use of such an adapter can be hazardous if the grounding tab is not connected to electrical ground. A safer alternative is to replace the outlet with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) breaker outlet.

The computer media drive connectors are unlike the motherboard-powering connectors from the Power Supply Unit of a PC, which may involve multiple additional 4, 6 and 8-pin 'breakout' supply cables that have this feature and specially 'keyed' pin-sheaths as well to allow forward/backward compatibility between various versions of PSU and motherboard that could be used (and power-hungry GPUs of various kinds, as well).

Note that some embedded systems such as cash registers actually do use larger USB connectors to include 12V and/or 24V power connections. These are not, however, called "macro-USB", and are not as large.

Other countries often use RJ11-ended cables with locally-specific adapter-ends, e.g. the BS 6312 in Britain. Broadband microfilters may make use of this difference by splitting a relevant telephone plug standard into the local non-RJ11 style of telephone plug for an "audio-only" pass-through socket and an RJ11 for the router/modem to be cabled up to for the abstracted "data-only" signal — making an adapter for this will be nearly impossible.

There are two common systems for showing octane numbers on fuel pumps; the numbers shown (87, 91, 93) most closely map to Anti-Knock Index values which is used for the North American market and a number of other countries, the other system used in the rest of the world is Research Octane Number. In the AKI system; 87 octane (91 RON) is regular US, 91 octane (95 RON) is regular European, 93 octane (98 RON) is premium European, and in US both 91 and 93 are considered premium/super depending on the regulations of a particular state. Some states, such as California, forbid the sale of the gasoline above 91 octane. Only very rarely could both 91 and 93 be found at the same gas station. The typical line-up is "regular" (87), "plus" (89), and "premium"/"super" (depending on the state and on the fuel brand, 91, 92 or 93 octane). A standard diesel nozzle (24mm) is slightly larger diameter than a standard petrol nozzle (21mm) so you cannot tank diesel into a petrol car but if this nozzle has the petrol nozzle diameter you are still able to tank with it into some diesel cars. Some manufacturers such as Volkswagen fit a misfueling guard and fuel filler neck cap or have redesigned the fuel filler to prevent a petrol nozzle being used in a diesel car.

Since the release of this comic, Apple has created a magnetic charging cable for its Apple Watch, which functions in the same manner as the current MagSafe 1 & 2 by using a magnet to connect to the device. This new charger looks identical to the fictional MagSafe 3 in the comic.


[Universal converter box with wires to connectors:]
[sharing connectors with Component:]
1/8" Audio
1/8" Video
Parallel Port
Airline Pneumatic Tube Audio
120V AC
[pointing to ground pin:]
[pointing to sections in IDC connector:]
Break here
USB (weird other end)
Micro USB
Macro USB
F Connector
Token Ring
MagSafe 2
MagSafe 3
MagSafe 4
Bluetooth Dongle
String (fits most cans)
[Fuel nozzle with selector for:]

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Would like to see what a gender changer for the petrol pump looks like... 04:37, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

It’s a funnel. 04:45, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
Or maybe some sort of straw 10:27, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Im more intereted in understanding how the conversion between 87, 91 and 93 octane and Diesel is taking place -- some mini refinery most be included Spongebog (talk) 07:34, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
No need for a mini refinery if you simply have 4 feed lines multiplexed through a valve.Seebert (talk) 18:57, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
You only need three behind the valve: 87, 93, and K-2 Kerosene. Kerosene is run straight-through, 87 and 93 are connected to the valve, then there are three lines in front of the valve: 87 and 93 are blended to produce 91 AKI. (in TX, we have fuel oil #2)
I guess those folks still using their ADB keyboards are out of luck. 04:45, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
Not true. ADB uses the same connector as S-Video, so they would be covered. Sayno2quat (talk) 13:39, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

Oh god... there are quite a few blank spots on that gas pump, and we all know what Randall likes to do with tape. 04:55, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

If true, one of these (88 AKI) dispenses a light red/pink fuel--it's leaded gasoline! \ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Where's the old Mac DIN based serial port? I've got a Color Classic I'd like to resurrect! (No, seriously. It's got a math program on it that I paid about one fifteenth of what they're going for today!) ExternalMonolog (talk) 05:21, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

Probably related: HDMI — garden hose adapter for pouring sh*t from the TV directly on your lawn. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The above garden hose comment reminds me of the classic Three Stooges film in which they are bungling plumbers who get confused and connect the electric wires to the pipes with impossible but hilarious results -- for instance a TV shows Niagara Falls then suddenly water comes gushing out of it. 03:12, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

The original Ethernet used a fat coaxial cable known as "Garden Hose". There were no hubs or switches, each station had a 'stinger' tap clamped to the coax. I used such a setup in the 1970s. Jim E (talk) 15:54, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
And did I miss BNC connectors? BNC (co-ax, resistance-terminated, or sometimes looped integrated either by a stinger-clamp of some kind or (on balance, better) T-adapters between any number of shorter-length cables) was what I grew up with, with all its attendent foibles and influence on the distribution diagram (usually an ring-with-gap around the office, rather than a star topology, IME). 22:17, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

I hate the fact that I can think of multiple standards that are not covered here. A gazillion DIN connectors, mini HDMI, RS232, Canon/XLR,... All the AC power adapters just on their own will weigh more than 22.7 kilograms. And seriously, how are we meant to connect our coaxial network cable to an iPhone2 with this? --DivePeak (talk) 06:04, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

+1 Spongebog (talk) 07:30, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

I'm just a little pissed that all those plugs and it still doesn't include an Australian 240v power plug... sigh. 06:09, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

There are no power adapters in this afaik -- the title text talks about DC adapters, but they come in a separate bag Spongebog (talk) 07:30, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
I can see just one. I think it's the American plug, but I'm not sure (not familiar with what it looks like). It's got a removable ground pin. -- 14:01, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
Absolutely right, not sure how I missed that Spongebog (talk) 15:14, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

While we're mentioning things Randall forgot, we have eSATA, 9-pin serial, there are at least three types of firewire, Multiple SCSI interface sizes, TRRS audio/mic connectors, 1/4" inch audio connectors, XLR, varous RF connectors, and a ton of power connectors. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The STA and SCSI are mostly internal connections which users rarely had to worry about Spongebog (talk) 07:30, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
But there is external SCSI as well. Which sometimes needed to be manually numbered using DIP switches and properly terminated. --DivePeak (talk) 00:12, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the magsafe 4 connector was the 'hair connector' from the avatar movie. That would really be the ultimate self-connecting magsafe successor. -- 08:05, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

Many of the video cables in this comic actually are compatible: DVI is backwards-compatible with VGA, HDMI is (mostly) compatible with DVI, S-video is compatible with composite RCA, and SCART is compatible with VGA in addition to supporting both types of composite. Might want to note that somewhere in the article. 08:20, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

Display Port? --DivePeak (talk) 00:12, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
I noticed too that it was missing. Not a bargain then, what a ripoff! :-) 17:34, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
It's covered by Thunderbolt, which is backwards-compatible with DP. 03:42, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

The male/female adapters has me wondering slightly... Does the kit come with adapters for the fuel and the power plug? Might make for a light generator. 08:26, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

I was mildly sad to see that the token ring was not accompanied by a Tolkien ring. —TobyBartels (talk) 08:58, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

+1 --DivePeak (talk) 00:12, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

Some more "missing" items, and I'm wondering if we need to add all our suggestions in a single list to the main article. -- BigMal // 12:08, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

IBM PC keyboard DIN
IBM PC joystick
Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)
GPIB/HPIB (RS-485?) -- for electronics lab equipment (power supplies, desktop DMM, oscilloscope -- before USB and Ethernet)
BNC (compostie video or analog signals)
12V DC automotive power (old "cigarette lighter" port)
Off-Board Diagnostic Connector (ODBC II -- automotive per SAE).
Deutsch triangular SAE J1939/CAN connectors and "H1939" circular 9-pin Service Tool connector
Other kinds of plumbing, inspired by the fuel pump -- US garden hose, various sizes of US NPT (National Pipe Thread?), various sizes of US "compression" thread
and Pneumatic too -- all four of the most common pneumatic tool quick disconnects plus Schrader valve fitting (US standard for pneumatic tires) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Does JTAG counts too? Also, I vote against adding this to the main article. 23:58, 22 November 2015 (UTC)

According to Wikipedia, the 1st and 2nd gen MagSafe connectors in this image are swapped: What Randall labeled as MagSafe 1 is actually MagSafe 2 and vice-versa. Mezgrman (talk) 10:31, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

No, this isn't talking about generations, it's talking about actual connections. The MagSafe adapter was first developed with what Apple calls the "T" style form factor, then was aesthetically updated to the "L" style, which is labeled as "MagSafe" in the comic. The two form factors were interchangeable due to the actual connection and power flow being identical. MagSafe 2 has returned to the "T" style, and was introduced with the Retina Display and newer MacBook Air models, and has a longer, thinner profile that is NOT interchangeable with regular MagSafe adapters, though a small adapter is available. MagSafe Troubleshooting Identifying Power Adapters -- 00:22, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

Do any of these connectors interface with the Raspberry Pi's GPIO? (Wow, it took me surprisingly long to find the name of that.) If not, can we add that to the list? 13:57, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

The Floppy, IDE and SCSI IDC connectors will fit (but only using 2x13 pins of the 2x17/20/25 pins). So, no - none of these will interface directly with the Raspberry Pi. Condor70 (talk) 15:53, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

The one gender changer that bag won't have is the one for Token Ring... of all the adapters this thing can handle, I believe the Token Ring one is the only one without a gender -- one Token Ring plug plugs into another, or into the wall socket, etc. without needing to worry about whether you have a male connector or a female one. Though I guess the Bluetooth Dongle and string also don't need adapters, pe se... -boB (talk) 14:28, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

One Token Ring to rule them all? --DivePeak (talk) 00:08, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
Nah, it'd prolly come with a block with two token ring plugs. A genderless gender switcher. A wireless extension cable. BenAgain (talk) 12:49, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
Is the Magsafe 4 a reference to the connectors for hands and things from the movie A.I.?

I think that the Magsafe 4 is supposed to look like those fancy auto-moving connectors from A.I. Artificial Intelligence. 15:50, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

The Magsafe 4 could also be a reference to the Na'vi tendril/braid from Avatar. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I wonder where the 30-pin and the Lightning plug that Apple loves so much is. I could see if the 30-pin is hiding int the Floppy or something, but nowhere is the Lightning plug. What gives? 19:47, 11 August 2014 (UTC

Universal Business Adapter

There might be a hidden reference to a famous IBM TV Ad from, dunno, late 90's or so, in this. I read somewhere that the joke was lost to some viewers and IBM actually put resources into developing an "universal adapter" for business clients due to the demand. -- 19:15, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

Diesel .v. petrol nozzles

"A standard diesel nozzle is a bit thicker than a standard petrol nozzle so you cannot tank diesel into a petrol car but if this nozzle has the petrol nozzle diameter you are still able to tank with it into a diesel car."

This statement may be true in some countries, but not here in the UK, for standard pumps for use with normal cars, vans, etc. That said, we also have separate, high speed, pump nozzles for lorries (=trucks :-) ) which are quite a bit larger than the standard petrol/diesel nozzle. 08:16, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

It is true in UK as well, the sizes are the same all over the world as it is standardized by SAE. Although there are large nozzles for trucks (usually 1 1/3" or 1 1/2"; also they don't stop filling automatically), even the one for cars is a bit larger than the petrol one (diesel has 15/16" diameter, petrol 13/16"). If you have a petrol-running car, you can easily check this :-) Interestingly, there used to be 15/16" nozzle for petrol as well but that was used for leaded only. And yes, the smaller size was introduced to avoid tanking leaded petrol into an unleaded-only car (Patent US4034784), not to avoid tanking diesel. STEN (talk) 23:15, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

Also, he's missing a lot of fiber/fibre connections (think FDDI, Fibre Channel, ST, LC, MT, SC, MIC, ESCON, TOSLINK, etc. :-)! He's missing whatever weird connectors were/are used for T-1 feeds. Also, is that parallel port DB-25 or Centronics 36? Note that SCSI has been seen to go over Centronics 36, DB-25, a 50-pin ribbon connector, 68 or 80 pin ribbon connectors that were shaped like a DB connector to key them, Fibre Channel (mentioned before), and SAS. Does the kit come with terminators? Better yet, for some SCSI drives, does it come with those little fiddly 8 or 9 pin terminating resistor packs that slid into plugs on the drive? Also, I wonder if you can run whatever weird protocol that 3270 terminals used over that F-connector and use this adapter like an IRMA board between an iPhone and a raw mainframe feed (no Microsoft SNA Server required). 13:44, 12 August 2014 (UTC) Toby Ovod-Everett

Hoo boy, IRMA board, that takes me back. Plainly Randall felt the need to stop at some point. Jim E (talk) 15:51, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

Clearly it's missing the soup adapter. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I've never seen the magsafe connectors but I thought the MAGSAFE 4 picture was a joke about a magnet so strong that the cord ripped off of the connector, leaving the connector on the still safe protected unit. ExternalMonolog (talk) 07:01, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Missing all the electric car plugs including Tesla superchargers (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

""male" connector is plug, "female" connector is socket" is not quite correct. The gender of a connector is referring to the contacts, not the connector itself. For an example of a male socket look at the socket for the PSU on your PC (in fact, some power supplies have both a male and a female socket which allows you to power the PC and monitor using a single outlet). (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I figured it out: the string is to distract the bobcat that might have inadvertently been included. Dr Pepper (talk) Dr Pepper

Did anyone point out that internal floppy/IDE/SCSII are a different pitch than 2.5 IDE so a compound connector would be unpossible. I wanna say 0.1" vs 0.15" off the top of my head. BTW there's an awesome pic out there somewhere with just about every connector you're likely to see on it. Huge though. 19:11, 7 November 2014 (UTC)

This comic is a joke and not really correct on all the connectors. Explaining all of them is just unimpossible (G.DubbleYou. Bush). Just keep smiling... --Dgbrt (talk) 23:04, 7 November 2014 (UTC)

Anyone notice how the round MagSafe 3 connector is eerily similar to the Apple Watch's charger? 26 November 2014173.245.62.87 06:18, 26 November 2014 (UTC)

Did anyone notice that RS-232 serial port is missing? FAIL! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Also missing 20 ma. serial current loop. G1l1t1 (talk) 18:44, 19 October 2016 (UTC)

DisplayPort? SP-DIF? Whoop whoop pull up (talk) 16:09, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

“Genderless” ... or hermaphrodite? The Token Ring adapter, as drawn, looks to have both male and female components, so it is absolutely Not genderless, but serves as both, hence Hermes & Aphrodite. 14:30, 17 November 2017 (UTC)