Are We Nearly There Yet?

The trouble with having lots of gadgets is having to also manage and travel with a vast collection of power supplies, cables and chargers to make them work. I know I’m not alone in being annoyed by this – one of the late Douglas Adams’ last pieces of writing was a rant (there’s no better word) at the tech industry he otherwise loved, and how a lack of standards burdened him with an annoying plethora of single-use cables and transformers.

Maybe things are getting better. We seem to have standardised (for now, until the next bright spark tries to be different) on 5V supplies for most rechargeable hand-held devices, and some (but not all) expect the source to be a standard USB type A socket. This at least reduces the number of independent chargers. That’s the good news. The bad news is the device end. I really don’t get why we can’t standardise on the standard mini B USB port, but the creative types seem to want more variety.

Then there are the devices which take mains input. Set aside the fact that mains outlets come in several varieties, as it’s probably about 100 years too late to do much about that, there’s still the matter of the mains connection into the device (or its power supply). There are at least three standards, and while quite a lot of my kit uses the common “figure of eight” version, sod’s law dictates that my laptop uses the three-pin variant. Oh well…

On a more positive note, thanks to Apple I now have a transformer which is “figure of eight” in and USB out, so that will cover a lot of bases, and I have a pair of mains cables which the appropriate plugs for each region I regularly travel to, so I don’t need to carry adapters.

Despite the fact that my cameras all hail from the same manufacturer, Canon, they each take different batteries and each has a separate charger. The better news is that apparently Canon have declared that their next generation of DSLRs will use only two battery types, but I can’t see how that will help because knowing my luck I’ll still probably end up with a camera from each family.

So what’s the upshot. Here’s what I carry regularly:

  • Figure of eight mains cable with appropriate plug
  • Laptop power cable with appropriate plug, and laptop power supply
  • Mains to USB transformer (clever Apple version, which has a UK plug but also takes a figure of eight cable)
  • USB to mini B (doesn’t actually charge anything, but connects disks, cameras etc. to the laptop)
  • USB to “slim mini B” (I don’t know what they call this, but it seems to be an emerging standard, as my Zaggmate keyboard, Frances’ phone and her Kindle all use it)
  • USB to even slimmer non-standard plug for my phone. Thanks a lot, HTC
  • USB to Apple connector for the iPad
  • USB to HP iPaq connector, to charge the iPaq. In fact, you can’t buy this lead, but it’s amazing what you can achieve with a load of cannibalised bits and a soldering iron

Yes, I know I should be able to condense my phone and PDA into one device, and I might get one with either a standard USB or Apple connector. See here and here for why I might resist that…

Then for holidays, you add:

  • 2x or 3x Canon chargers, depending on what I’m expecting to photograph
  • Shaver cable and appropriate mains adapter

Is this getting better?

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