1406: Universal Converter Box

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Converter boxes are used to connect two devices together which otherwise couldn't be, due to different shaped plugs, different voltages, or different protocols of communication.
Converter boxes are used to connect two 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.
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.
The humour from this comic comes from the progressively ridiculous conversions that this box is capable of doing, for example, converting audio from a 1/8inch / 3.5mm headphone jack, into a variety of petrols suitable for running your car.
The humour from this comic comes from the sheer number of [[927: Standards|different standards]] that at different times aimed to be the universal way to connect two devices (at least in their target market), as well as the progressively ridiculous conversions that this box is capable of doing, for example, converting audio from a 1/8inch / 3.5mm headphone jack, into a variety of petrols suitable for running your car.
===Different connectors===
===Different connectors===

Revision as of 15:42, 11 August 2014

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 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.

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

Different connectors

  • VGA (Video Graphics Array): A type of video connector, it has fifteen pins in a D-shell (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). First used in 1987, and with new versions being developed since then, it is an extremely common type of video connector.
  • DVI (Digital Visual Interface): Another type of video connector, it also uses a D-shell connector, except the pins are flat instead of round. DVI is not compatible with VGA ports, though DVI can transmit an analog signal.
  • HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface): A connector that can transmit both video and audio over the same cable, HDMI has slowly been replacing DVI and VGA ports on newer devices due to the simplicity (both audio and video in one connector) and the smaller footprint and overall dimensions.
  • Thunderbolt: A multimedia/data connector, 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. 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.
  • Firewire (IEEE 1394): A bidirectional data transfer connector, similar to USB, Firewire can be used for many applications (e.g. networking computers), but it mostly finds use connecting audio/video equipment to computers.
  • Component and RCA: Both component video and RCA are ways of transmitting video and audio signals. Technically, RCA is the name of the connector type that they share; the "RCA" video connection is also called composite video. Both use two plugs for audio (left and right channels), but RCA (composite) uses one plug for video where component uses three: Y (luma), Pb (Blue - Y), Pr (Red - Y).
  • 1/8" audio/video (3.5 mm phone connector): A very common type of connector, perhaps best known as a headphone plug, but also used for other audio equipment and (as the comic indicates) for some video equipment. The video plug only has 3 contacts (Tip, Ring and Sleeve) so it isn't the reasonably common 3.5mm video + audio plug on some equipment which has 4 contacts (Tip, Ring, Ring and Sleeve).
  • Parallel port: A now-obsolete computer interface, mostly used to connect printers to PCs.
  • S-video: Another video standard similar to component and RCA, but with the video signal split in Y (luma) and C (chroma).
  • Airline pneumatic tube audio: Connector for pneumatic headphones used by in-flight entertainment systems from 1963 until 1979. The seat would contain a passenger control unit (PCU) that contained an audio transducer with 2 loudspeakers. The headphone connected to this unit only needed a pneumatic tube to conduct the sound which made them very cheap to produce.
  • 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 such connectors as PS/3 and PS/4 -- the joke here is that the PlayStation 2 console is also abbreviated to PS2, and there have been two models of PlayStation since, abbreviated PS3 and PS4.
  • 120V AC: This style of plug is used for domestic power outlets in the US, Canada, Mexico, and some other parts of the Americas. (Interestingly, while AC adapters are necessary -- and widely available -- to suit sockets in other countries, this "universal" convertor does not feature any other AC power plugs.) The pin marked "removable" is the ground pin; not every device requires a ground pin, and some (older) sockets do not have a hole for it.
  • Floppy, IDE, 2.5", SCSI: These are various disk drive IDC connectors for different numbers of pins, and hence different widths of cable. Despite this similarity, real plugs do not have break-away parts for different devices as the pinout has no similarities at all and the connectors are all keyed differently.
  • USB connectors: This bidirectional data connection is used for connecting many different devices to computers, each other, and to power supplies and chargers. The USB standard has many different types of plugs, necessitating convertors like the one in the comic (though generally less featureful). The types present here are USB-A ("USB"), USB-B ("USB weird other end"), mini-USB, micro-USB, and the non-existent "macro-USB" (a joke on the previous two as a macro i.e. larger version of USB).
  • F connector: A type of coaxial plug used for various television signals and for cable modems.
  • Fiber: Optical fiber cables are used for various data transmission purposes. Interestingly, the fiber depicted does not seem to have any of the (many) typical optical fiber connectors; it may be simply a loose end.
  • RJ11: The "smaller than RJ45" connector which is used for land-line telephones.
  • Ethernet (RJ45): The most common consumer-grade fixed wire connection for computer networking.
  • Token ring: A now-outdated networking technology, token ring was a late-80s competitor to Ethernet for fixed-wire network connection. Its connectors were large and boxy, but were unique in that they were genderless, so no gender changing adapter will be needed in that bag.
  • 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). Also, the MagSafe 4 "connector" appears to be broken; this may be a joke about the poor quality of MagSafe cables.
  • Bluetooth dongle: A wireless network standard mostly used to connect accessories to phones and computers.
  • SCART: An audio/video connector mostly used in Europe; it replaced other connectors like component video, but has itself been superseded by HDMI.
  • 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.
  • Fuel nozzle, with a switch to choose between different octane ratings and diesel fuel: Dispensers for fossil fuels used to power internal combustion engines. 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. In the AKI system; 87 octane is regular US, 91 octane is regular European and 93 octane is premium/super US.

The title text is referring to connector "gender," which is a further complication in getting a connection. A connector is capable of making a connection to another device only through another connector of the opposite gender. Gender adapters flip the gender of a connector, so that two connectors of the same gender can connect. Due to the number of connections this box is capable of, there would be a significant number of connectors, which would lead to them weighing 50-lbs in all. The weight of the petrol pump gender adapter is probably responsible for the bulk of this.

The "circular center pin DC adapter tips" in the title text are barrel jack power plugs. These were developed in the 1980s, and come in a staggering variety of dimensions. The "barrel" has both an inner diameter and an outer diameter, so even if the outer diameter of the barrel jack (which can be easily measured) is correct, the inner diameter might not be. Furthermore, there is the complication that the device requires power at a certain voltage and the supply must provide the correct voltage, and the polarity also has to be correct: positive on the barrel and negative on the inner pin, or vice-versa. This leads to frustration on the part of users when the original power supply cannot be found.


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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)

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