A Dutch engineer discovered that, contrary to what we learned, USB-C is not exactly a symmetric connection, and created a “cursed device” for this purpose.
Oh, USB-C: the favorite plug. Since it came into our lives a few years ago, it has spared us the need to grope in the dark to figure out which is the correct side to plug the cord into an outlet, because it is symmetrical after all. But is it really symmetrical? Not exactly what a Dutch engineer says.
The “cursed device” that revealed the beloved plug
Pim de Groot is a mechanical engineer from the Netherlands who loves to live on the edge. He decided to go out and show the world the whole truth face to face – they were working on us, the USB-C standard fooled us all when it was presented as a nice symmetrical plug, because it just isn’t true.
De Groot created what he called a “damn USB-C device” with two LEDs and a USB-C socket. In a video he posted on Twitter, De Groot shows how the “cursed” device he created does various things by inserting the USB-C cable into its two possible configurations, that is, on both sides. When the wire goes into one setting, the top bulb blinks green while the bottom one blinks red, and when the wire enters the other setup, the position of the colors the bulbs blink in changes.
I made a Cursed USB-C 2.0 device. It behaves differently depending on the orientation of the plug. pic.twitter.com/8Ko66wPuV2
– Pim de Groot (@mifune) March 21, 2021
How does this dark magic happen? According to De Groot, even though the USB-C socket looks like a completely symmetrical socket to us, this is not the case. There are multiple contacts that use USB 2.0 sockets that are on only one side of the USB-C socket. And when you plug the cable into the jack on the USB 2.0 standard, you can access the same contacts, which the Groot field did to create his “damn device.”
De Groot simply used this ability to use microcontrollers to illuminate the bulbs in different colors according to the configuration in which he inserted the USB-C 2.0 plug into the device he created, thus revealing the truth about the plug, in this specific standard.
De Groot also found that although the device’s D + / D- contacts are symmetrical when it comes to connection, the operation they perform can be changed directly from the cable’s touch panel. De Grote wrote in a thread where he introduced the device and discovered the nice trick: try connecting the cable in the second configuration. “Although they tell us that the way we connect the cable does not matter, it is definitely not true in some cases.”
Despite the interesting exposition, it is important to note that De Groot’s “cursed device” uses USB-C 2.0 for some reason, because in the next standard in line (USB-C 3.0) the problem is solved and the plug it is in fact completely symmetrical. both in the way it connects to you as a charger or data cable.
De Groot explains that “USB-C 3.0 fixes this (lack of symmetry in the old standard, AA) by identifying the settings in the controller and making adjustments to the switches” so that the plugs and cables of the newer standard do not reach the symmetric state not only in the connection itself, but also in the output. From it, regardless of how you connect the cable to the outlet.
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