An image of a green fedora hat, which serves as the logo for this site.Gordy's Discourse

What happened to the idea of one universal cable?

I'm not a man given to accessories, at least when it comes to pointless decor. I was once told that ornaments perform a role in maintaining a healthy psychological outlook, so I bought a porcelain dolphin that now sits on my bathroom window. I can't say I feel any better for it, but if anyone doubts my sanity I just point them to the dolphin.

I have some pictures on the wall of course, but most things I own need to do something useful. Or at least do something interesting. That latter point is the escape clause I use to avoid being cast as an artistic pariah.

I love this device, for example:

The first gear on this device would have to turn 1 googol times in order to turn the last gear once. It's utterly pointless, but I like it nevertheless. I'm a strange dichotomy in that respect; a pointless ornament in my sightline in the living room would soon find itself in the bin, but a pointless gears device would command pride of place.

When it comes to computers, I've collected numerous accessories over the years. Most of these accessories are no longer used and have been scrapped, but I still have the cables, too scared to throw them out in case I need them in the future. They sit in a big box of tangled spaghetti. These days I label my cables straight away, but I never used to do that.

I thought USB-C was supposed to be the cable that ended all other cables. Back in 2016 it was touted as such, yet many accessories I buy today still seem to come with a wide array of cables that are not USB-C.

It seems manufacturers haven't entirely bought into the idea of USB-C yet. I think it was Apple who argued a universal cable would stifle innovation. They may have a point, although it's hard not to be cynical about a company that charges a fortune for its various dongles and cables (and £700 for a set of little wheels — astonishing).

Perhaps we're caught in a transitioning limbo. Accessory makers probably want to support older hardware and are wary of releasing something that only supports USB-C. Maybe the idea of the universal cable will never happen. Maybe by the time accessory makers start supporting only USB-C, there'll be a new, better idea for a universal cable.

Of course the future of power cables looks like doing away with the cable altogether and using wireless charging. I like this idea. A while pack I counted 28 things plugged into sockets in my living room alone and figured I must be using enough power to illuminate a Pink Floyd concert. Wireless charging seems fine for smaller devices — phones, watches, AirPods etc. — but I'm not sure how realistic it is for bigger devices.

It's another dichotomy of mine that I sometimes feel technology is moving too fast to keep up with, and at other times I feel it's not moving quick enough.

I'll go and stare at my porcelain dolphin and ponder these matters further.