Elderly Computer Users – Jargon Buster #3 -What is a USB Cable?

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A USB cable is used to connect a piece of equipment, such as a camera or a printer, to your computer.  USB stands for Universal Serial Bus, and it is a standard means to transfer information between accessories and your computer.  A USB cable has two ends.  The larger end is plugged into the computer, and the smaller end is plugged into an accessory such as your printer or camera.  The smaller end comes into three sizes: standard, mini, and micro:

Below is a photo of a standard USB cable that you’ll typically see connected between your computer and a printer:

Standard Sized USB Cable

Standard Sized USB Cable

 

And here is a mini-USB cable that is used to connect your camera to a computer.

Mini USB Cable

Mini USB Cable

 

Finally, here is a photo comparing the sizes of a standard, mini, and micro-USB cable.  The micro USB cables are typically found on cell phones or an e-Book reader such as a Kindle Fire.

USB Cable Size Comparison - Standard, Mini, and Micro

USB Cable Size Comparison - Standard, Mini, and Micro

USB cables don’t require much force to connect them to the computer or accessory.   When connecting the cable, don’t force it into the port.  If you find yourself pushing real hard, then I bet you have the connector turned the wrong way.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the end meant for accessories looks more trapezoidal than a rectangular;  that is, one of the longer sides is shorter than the other.

Bonus tip:  many of us end up with multiple USB cables for various accessories.  A good way to keep them organized is to label each with a masking tape “flag”:  camera, Kindle, etc.

Hopefully this clears up any basic questions you had regarding USB cables.  As always, if you have a question write a comment and we will answer it.  Don’t forget to Sign up for our newsletter to receive regular updates and tips.

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