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Ever spent time fighting with your USB plug? Here’s why the port isn’t reversible

The reason is surprisingly simple.

usb stick on table
Image: Unsplash

It’s nearly 25 years since the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard came into being, and for most of those years, we’ve been fighting to plug them in correctly.

So why wasn’t the plug reversible from the get-go, like the USB-C standard? It all comes down to the cost of adoption for the fledgling standard.

The USB plug was single-sided as a cost consideration

When Intel and its partners came up with the USB interface as a replacement for the terrible mess of device-specific cables from the early days of personal computers, they needed to convince PC manufacturers to use the new standard. The PC makers of the time were famously cost-sensitive, so every extra cent would be used against the new standard, despite its utility.

Never mind that the new standard could replace serial ports, parallel ports, FireWire, and others. Never mind that it also replaced that huge tangle of wires. The one real problem was one of cost.

To make the USB standard reversible, like on USB-C, would require twice as many connectors, and twice as many wires. That’s twice the cost of implementation, and at the time, PC manufacturers wouldn’t go for it. That’s the simple reason that it took until now for making USB ports that could plug in either way, saving us time and frustration.

What do you think? Surprised by the reasoning here? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r and unabashed geek. Hardware guy here at KnowTechie, if it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't) I probably have one around here somewhere. My hobbies include photography, animation and hoarding Reddit gold.

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