We all have that drawer full of old cables and connectors. I’ve thought many times about cleaning it out, but I know when I do, I’ll find something that need a special plug that is buried in the drawer.
I laugh too at my computer bag. I bought a MacBook Air because they are so lightweight yet still pack the punch. But, I also have a gadget bag full of adapters and cords that probably out weighs the computer itself.
But that brings me to todays topic. I cleaned out the bag a couple months ago being careful to keep the cords I needed for all the current gear. Or so I thought.
Profoto has released new firmware for their lights and so I thought it would be a good idea to upgrade the firmware in all my Profoto gear. (It really is a good idea - you should do it too.) The process is simple. Download the new firmware, run the app and plug in the light to your USB port on the computer.
I have one USB cable I’ve deducted to Profoto gear so I updated by Profoto A1’s and my Profoto B2. The last light to update was my Profoto B1 and guess what. It takes a different USB connector. Really?
The A1s and B2s use a USB cord with a Type A connector at one end and a Micro B connector at the flash.
The B1 uses a USB cord with a Type A connector at one end and a Mini B plug at the flash end.
Now, I understand the need to update technology. Cables and connectors change in an effort to keep up the the data volume and speed required by the devices they connect. And I certainly appreciate the benefits from these advancements. But I still get frustrated when I need a Mini B cable and all I have is a Micro B plug.
Seriously. In the twenty plus years that USB has been around, I can count at least 11 different plug configurations. The earliest was the simple Type A connector. That’s what most people think of when you mention USB. It’s a flat connector with four wires and you have a 50% / 50% chance of plugging it in correctly. The other was the Type B connector. That’s the square-ish looking plug that is still prevalent in printers.
In the early 2000’s they announced the USB 2.0 standard that include the Mini plugs. There’s a Mini A, Mini B and even a Mini AB. In the drive to make connectors smaller, they announced a Micro B and even a Micro AB connector.
In 2011 USB 3.0 was released and along came the all-new Micro B. (I think Adobe helped them name the products.) Same name, just a completely different plug configuration that supports the Super Speed bus.
Today, you’re starting to see the USB Type C connector which, compared to all it’s predecessors, is remarkable. Not just in the speed of the data over the cable, at 40Gbps, but also in the fact that Apple ditched their Mini Display Port configuration for the new Thunderbolt 3 port. This is significant in many ways and the reason is that Thunderbolt 3 is essentially interchangeable with USB-C. USB C cables will work as Thunderbolt 3 cables, and vice versa.
Now Thunderbolt 3 and USB C are not the same thing. If you have a Thunderbolt 3 device, you must use a Thunderbolt 3 cable. It’s because these devices use special computer chips to function properly and those chips are not supported in USB land. But the similarities in the cable configurations bring economies of scale into play, helping to keep prices for such devises down.
Anyway, the real moral of this story is that you need to be very careful that you keep all the cables necessary to support all your current gear. Go through your things and just make sure you have all the right cables. And yes, I did find that Mini B cable at the bottom of a bag of cables. But, I’ve still got some cleaning to do.