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A Guide to Common Cable Types

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By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Technology can be a wonderful thing. Things that thirty years ago were only dreams of fantasy and science fiction writers are now commonplace items. Do you remember when Windows 3.0 came out? How about cellular phones that were carried around in a suitcase? Today personal computers are more powerful than the supercomputers that sent men to the Moon. Cell phones are used to surf the Web, send photographs and movies, store thousands of songs and sometimes even to make phone calls. All of this progress, however, comes with a price.

The more things that our gadgets can do, the more complicated they become to use. Once upon a time, the only cord you needed to know about was the power cord. Today, you need special cables to charge your electronic devices up, various computer cables to connect them to a computer or the Internet, and cables to connect them to other gadgets. Suppose you want to buy a new TV. The box may tell you that it has connections for an HDMI cable, for a USB cable, and for a VGA cable. This is all great information, but if you don't know what these acronyms mean, then you don't know if having these connections is an advantage for you or not. This guide will explain the uses of various cables that are commonly used with personal electronic equipment today.

 

Power Cords

Almost all electronic devices will have some type of power cable. There are many different ways you can power and charge your devices. There are wall outlets that run on AC power, commonly used on appliances, computers, sound systems, and other devices in the home. Then there is DC power commonly found in your car for charging your cell phone, GPS, laptop or tablet on the go. Each of these cables varies for the job they are designed to do. From USB cables with smaller gauge wires to robust thick pure copper extension cords, there is a right cable for each job.

 

High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)

This is currently the best method for transferring audio and video signals between devices. New TVs and DVD/Blu-Ray players, video game consoles and cable boxes commonly have these connections. An HDMI cord replaces the coaxial or component cable that you may have once used to connect your DVD player to your TV. The HDMI cord will send both the video and audio from the DVD player to the TV. There are now Mini and Micro version of HDMI connections for portable devices and smart phones that allow you to watch them on the your TV.  An HDMI splitter will take a single signal and duplicate it so that you can watch it on two or more televisions. An HDMI switch will allow you to connect more than one device to a single HDMI port.

 

Accessories for Your iPad and iPhone.

There are many devices and cables that fall under the heading of iPad accessories and iPhone accessories. Apple was wise enough and considerate enough to make the connector the same for iPads, iPhones and iPods. This means that most cables that are made for these devices can be used for any of them. There are cords that will allow them to be connected to a computer to download movies or songs. There are cables that will connect them to a TV so that movies or photos that are stored on the device can be seen on the TV. Each cable will have an Apple connector at one end and a typical device connector at the other.

 

USB and VGA Cables

There are several different cables that you may see mentioned for use with computers. One is VGA. VGA stands for Video Graphics Array, and it is a cable that connects the computer to the monitor. Today's TVs often have VGA connections as well. This allows the TV to be connected to the computer and used as a monitor for the computer. Movies, videos, and other media which are stored on the computer can then be viewed on the TV. Another cable in this category is the Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable. USB cables are used to connect a multitude of devices to a computer. Keyboards, mice, external hard drives and printers are all connected via USB. TVs also come with USB connections now. This allows you to stream video, pictures and music from a storage device. Updating your TV's software is another function of the USB port on most TV's. The TV updates are downloaded from the manufacturer's website onto a computer, transferred to a USB memory stick, and then installed on the TV. There will usually be a menu function that will give instructions on how to do this once the memory stick is plugged into the TV.

 

Coaxial Cables

Coaxial cables are the longtime backbone of television provider home installations. The versatility of this cable and long time use has made it a fixture for many homes and neighborhoods. There have been varying versions that have been upgraded throughout the years but the basic construction of the coaxial cable has endured. This is still the go to cable for Satellite and Cable TV signals. Newer FiOS companies such as Verizon and ATT use a mixture of fiber and cat5e/6 to run their network. But the undisputed king is still the coax. This is the round cable with a round threaded connector (F-Type) on each end that is to connect a cable TV box to the wall.


Electronic devices today can be connected to each other and to power sources using a variety of cables. These cables are often identified only by acronyms like VGA, HDMI, DVI, BNC, and USB to name a few. These cables can make the devices much more versatile if you know what they are and how to use them. This guide will explain what some of these cables are used for and how they can make your personal electronic devices even more useful.

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