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Here’s why the USB never had any plans to be reversible

The reason is surprisingly simple.

usb stick on table
Image: Unsplash

Quick Answer: Due to cost constraints, USB cables were not originally intended to be reversible. Yup, PC manufacturers at the time didn’t want to foot the bill because making the USB reversible required more wiring. More wiring means more off the bottom line.

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 developed the USB interface to replace 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.

two usb plugs on a purple background

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.

Making the USB standard reversible, like on USB-C, would require twice as many connectors and 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 to make 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 with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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