CY UC-022-0.9M USB 3.1 Type-C Female to USB 2.0 A Male Cable (90cm) (Rant #R1)

Oooh, look at that precious hellspawn!

“USB-C to USB 2.0 Data Cable for Macbook Tablet, Mobile Phone – Black” – capturing everything that is wrong with USB-C!

Sure, carrying over the perfectly fine USB 3.0 spec into USB 3.1 and calling it “Gen 1” (in contrast to “USB 3.1 Gen 2” that is double the speed) is a huge fuckup on its own. There’s no better way to screw up a customer by allowing manufacturers to call something USB 3.1 compliant (new! shiny!) when it’s just 3.0 with a new badge. Obviously their bold move to restrict the “3.0” label to devices that make use of the 3.0 bandwidth and therefore locking out rebadged 2.0 devices wasn’t popular in the industry – too customer-friendly, I guess.

But USB type-C is a different story. It’s another plug that doesn’t really replace an existing one, although Mini-A and Mini-AB are phased out in favour of Mini-B (who the fuck did specify that in the first place…). I’d rather keep them and deny USB certification to custom USB sockets and corresponding cables, but that’s another can of worms for another rant. USB-C is a great design with the point symmetry that spreads the two superspeed data lines nicely over both sides of the connector, making it pluggable in 3D space in less than three tries. It will be a pain to make adapters for breadboards, but type-C doesn’t replace the good old A and B (2.0) types that interface well in macroscopic pin pitch. So if your homebrew product has to have a type-C plug, do the development with A/B types and replace it with 0.5mm pin pitch type-C in the final PCB design. Unless, well, you need to use modes that aren’t possible with traditional A/B’s, but that’s rare for homebrew.

Thing is: Type-C is just a connector. It came out after USB 3.1 (Gen 2, for fucks sake) did. It doesn’t require you to provide anything beyond USB 2.0. 5V, GND, two data lines are enough. Oh, and there’s some (active) configuration pin “CC” and another “VCONN” line for 5V. What do you do if your device doesn’t care? Simple, clamp VCONN to 5V and slap in some resistor between 5V and CC. If you choose the correct one, host and device will not even burn to a crisp. Perfect!

How do you know which of the official and not-so-official modes your device will support? Simple: Just ask the manufacturer! If you’re lucky, you’ll even get an answer…

Honestly: When reducing the number of different connectors for different applications (generic USB, file transfer, audio, video, Thunderbolt PCIe, LAN via HDMI?) down to one, who would have thought clear labelling of the capabilities is necessary?

John Doe no longer needs to swear because he doesn’t own the correct cable or there are so many black wires connecting peripherals to his computer, each doing a different thing. Now he just connects everything with the same cable, and *magic* some combinations work, and some don’t. No way to find out if that is a malfunction of any of the involved devices (including cables – see the lovely cable above with the “SS” superspeed logo on the type-C side and the 4-pin 2.0 connector on the other) or if that is a design choice of either the host, or the cable, or the client. There might even be multiple type-C ports on the computer that look the same, but support different things. Perfectly ridiculous and a job saver for every IT guy out there.

I’d rather keep distinctive ports with known capabilities instead of having a “one for all” type that may or may not be able to connect your SCART telly with your Gardena garden hose by using a three-phase power cable in “alternate mode”. But I’m not the target audience for super-slim high-speed connectors, as I don’t need my phone to get thinner so that the protective cover can get thicker. Which also means I’m not letting go the 3.5mm audio jack because it is so huge – and I’m glad Nokia’s attempt to establish 2.5mm jacks (N-Gage, anyone?) failed miserably. Call me hidebound, I’m just not in the game to needlessly replace gear but keen to keep domestic and professional support efforts at a reasonable level.

And if you are more open-minded than I am: This evil piece of against-all-specs cable is for sale on DX at a reasonable price of USD 4.49. This offer includes free shipping and screaming tantrums during use.

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