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Will Cabling Ever Get 'Consumeristic-al-i-do-cious'?

There's not much to sing about when it comes to cable choices for consumer wares.

Ever since Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke sang together in the classic Disney movie Mary Poppins, "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" has a quintessential way to describe something pretty fantastic. You won't find anybody humming that tune about cables.

I've been thinking about this since attending a factory meeting to learn about future wares under development and hearing a comment about the disappearance of RCA and S-video cables from the consumer electronics scene. The Nintendo 64 proprietary cables with RCA ends are reminders of days still not gone by for gaming freaks who insist on keeping what works -- the problem is in connecting the game to modern day televisions. Are there enough inputs, and will the old wares work?

Game cubes and then what followed in other wares, including audiophile gear, didn't help pave the way for any sort of industry standardization. Consider all the various video formats that have risen up over the years: VCR, (remember the Betamax vs. VHS war?), LaserDisc, DVD, Blu-ray, high-definition video, 3D and so on.

Convergence hasn't seemed to enter the consumer arena yet, and this is disturbing. Instead, we've seen combo DVD/VCR players and even TVs with combo DVD/VCR players. As for eliminating the various inputs and fiber (what consumer uses fiber?), I don't see that happening.

Apple quietly removed the disc drive and then narrowed the options for inputs and devices on Mac computers. In many Windows PCs you won't find the same inputs either, including serial connections.

If electronics manufacturers are going to eliminate serial cables then command line interface (CLI)-based programming needs to get canned, too, allowing control from a Web interface. When and if this occurs, the switch, router and firewall guys need to think about how to interface with the CLI using terminal-emulation apps like HyperTerminal.

For anyone with influence on cables and connectors, I'd like to throw my two cents in: One, I'd love never to see proprietary cables or connectors again, and two, High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) won't be the last frontier, either. To gain a perspective on the numerous cables and connectors that we in technology have dealt with I suggest taking a trip to your local consignment store for a taste of the past. You'll find RJ11 mixed in with RCA, Palm, Atari, Nintendo, USB, HDMI and everything else that we'd all rather forget.

I won't hold my breath for some universal miracle to use one cable or some standardization to occur, but it would be nice to see some cables disappear. More than USB or even HDMI the one cable that means the most and has thus far provided value is the good ol' RJ45, or should that be the 568B connection? Ethernet stands out, too. If consumers ever fall head over heels for these cables, then maybe the technology world would become a better place and better connected.

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