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This USB-C gadget from hell brings back the worst part of USB-A

This USB-C gadget from hell brings back the worst part of USB-A


A truly cursed object

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USB-C ports, I am occasionally forced to admit, are somewhat confusing. Different standards, different charging speeds, different data and video capabilities, proprietary labels like Thunderbolt, all on top of identical-looking plugs — it can be a lot.

But one thing that USB-C ports had going for them was a solution for one of the biggest annoyances of USB-A — it’s no longer possible to insert a USB cable the “wrong” way, thanks to the symmetrical design of the plugs.

Or, at least, it was, until mechanical engineer Pim de Groot came along with a USB-C gadget from hell, which does behave differently depending on which way your USB-C plug is facing. And I hate it so, so much.

The device itself is rather simple: when the USB-C cable is plugged in one way, a green LED lights up on the top of the device. Plug it in reversed, and the bottom LED lights up green, a malevolent horror balefully blazing out in a sea of black silicon.

What unearthly science has birthed this horror? Well, as de Groot explains, USB-C plugs aren’t entirely symmetrical — there’s a set of contacts that are only used when connecting plugs as a USB 2.0 device that’s only found on one side of the plug. And when you connect a plug to use in a USB 2.0 setting, you apparently can take advantage of that to create de Groot’s cursed device above, which uses a pair of microcontrollers that each only light up when they detect those contacts. (USB-C 3.0 connections apparently are immune to the trick, thankfully.)

Gaze into the abyss.
Gaze into the abyss.
Photo: Pim de Groot (@mifune) / Twitter

Unfortunately, instead of viewing de Groot’s eldritch sigil-etched monstrosity as a cautionary tale, some developers are looking to take things even further by trying to intentionally build a USB-C cable that requires a “superposition” maneuver of constantly unplugging and replugging it in different orientations before it successfully works. For the sake of all that is good in this word, we can only hope that these efforts fail to come to fruition.