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Sockets & Plugs

Computers use a combination of modern (USB, USB2 and Firewire) and legacy (Serial, Parallel, PS/2, and ADB) ports to which peripherals can be connected. There's such a lot of them floating around its important to know which is which.

Plugs & Sockets, Males & Females

In order for cables to be able to plug into things they need to have two genders. If the end of a cable has pins then it is a plug and therefore male.

Types of plugs

The following is by no means an exhaustive list of plug/socket types but covers all the connectors that I believe teaching staff will come across regularly.

Serial Plug

9 pin serial

The serial plug is getting on a bit now. It has always been important for attaching devices to PCs, including communication aids. The mouse also originally used this port before IBM's PS/2 standards were released in 1987. Some pointing devices still use the serial port

PS/2 Plug


This port was designed by IBM for their commercially disastrous Personal System/2 computers. The PS/2 port has lived on in other computers as the standard for keyboards and mice. The keyboard interface (Baby AT) is actually different to the mouse interface but they look identical. This has led to years of frustration for techie folk.

USB Plug


The USB and USB2 interfaces are the newest on the block. You need to have Windows 98 or above to use it (although some versions of Windows 95 have some support).

The interface is hot-swappable which means that you can remove one device and plug another in without having to turn off your computer first.

USB and USB2 are visually identical and can take each other's devices. USB2 can transfer information a lot faster so some USB2 devices won't work properly in an original USB port.

ADB Plug


The Apple Mac used to use the ADB standard. Now it uses USB. That's about as much as I know.

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