1406: Universal Converter Box
|Universal Converter Box|
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 / 3.5 mm headphone jack, into a variety of petrols suitable for running your car.
- VGA (Video Graphics Array): This is the (usually blue) plug (attached to a cable) that connects your monitor (like, your LCD screen) to your desktop computer. 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). Most often used with computers and monitors or projectors. Some newer televisions have them, too, so you can use your laptop with a REALLY big screen (e.g. for watching movies). 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): This is the (usually) white plug (attached to a cable) -- same purpose as the above, but newer. 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): The latest & greatest: 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. It also 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.
- 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. Because Firewire is designed to allow backplane access and direct memory access (DMA) to devices, there are additional conversion (and security) issues with it.
- 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 3.5 mm video + audio plug on some equipment which has 4 contacts (Tip, Ring, Ring and Sleeve). 1/8" is only an approximation using Imperial units. The standard actually specifies a size in the Metric system of 3.5 mm.
- Parallel port: A largely obsolete computer interface, mostly used to connect printers to PCs. While no longer common in homes or offices, parallel connections are still used in some embedded systems.
- 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 manufactured 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 similarly 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. 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. The pin marked "removable" (in jest) is the ground pin. Not every device requires a ground pin, and some (older) sockets do not have a hole for it, presumably leading some frustrated users to abuse the connector to get power. 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.
- 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. It is unlike the (unrelated, but doubtless inspirational) 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).
- 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). 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.
- 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 (over one hundred) existing optical fiber connectors; it may be simply a loose end.
- RJ11: The "smaller than RJ45" connector which is used for land-line telephones in the US. (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 relevent 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.
- 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 or else have a large number of individual pin leads; this may be a joke about the poor quality of the original MagSafe 1 cables, or a joke about how Magsafe cables are theoretically intended to work no matter which direction they're connected.
- 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.
- 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. Probably also a reference to CAN bus.
- 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, 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 the fuel filler to prevent a petrol nozzle being used in a diesel car.
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 ("male" connector is plug, "female" connector is socket), except for rare "genderless" connectors, such as the token ring mentioned above. For some interfaces, such as USB, the female size is always on the device while the male side is always on the cable (except for the extender cables that have a male connector one side and a female on the other side). However for the other interfaces, such as the RS-232 serial port, the conventions vary. Gender adapters flip the gender of a connector, so that two connectors of the same gender (that were built following the different conventions) can connect. But that's not the end: each of the gender pin-outs for RS-232 can be done in two mirror-image ways, and there are multiple pin-out conventions for the control lines, and two sizes of the standard connectors (9-pin and 25-pin D-connectors), with other non-standard connectors also available. Building a working RS-232 connection often involved getting 3 or 4 adapters connected in a sequence to produce the right connector, gender and pin-out. A set of all the possible RS-232 adapters might weigh surprisingly close to 50 pounds. However for some reason 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.
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.
- [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 with (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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