Whoever invented USB-C deserves a Nobel Prize


We tech reporters like to complain about tech a lot. Whether it’s the invasion of our privacy, worrisome use of AI, or the death of the headphone jack, we can be a fussy bunch. But as I emptied out boxes of old tech gear to start the new year fresh, I couldn’t help but be grateful for one of the best decisions the tech industry has made in the past few years: adopting USB-C.

Back in 2015, when Apple first introduced USB-C to the mainstream with the redesigned MacBook, I called it the one port to rule them all. These days, my love and appreciation for USB-C have only grown.

(By the way, as far as I can tell USB-C was not invented by any single person, but rather a group of engineers from multiple companies).

While emptying out a few boxes of pre-2016 gadgets and gizmos, I was hit with painful déjà vu of digging around for random cables and feeling like I could never find the right one.

One pair of headphones had a proprietary port, as did a smartwatch. One phone charged via Micro-USB, and an older one via Mini-USB. One hard drive used a mutant high-speed Micro-USB cable, and one microphone used the larger USB Type-B. Still, other devices used plain old coaxial DC power connections.

Those were the dark ages.

By contrast, in the past couple of months I have charged over 25 different devices using the same exact charger — that I can remember:

  • 4 different phones
  • 3 laptops
  • 3 pairs of headphones
  • 3 pairs of earbuds
  • A remote control
  • My Nintendo Switch
  • My mirrorless camera
  • A couple of e-readers
  • A power brick
  • A bike helmet
  • A portable speaker
  • A wireless mouse
  • A wireless keyboard
  • A portable bike pump
  • A blender

It’s such a relief to know that when, say, my Nintendo Switch is discharged I can just use my laptop charger, instead of fishing around for the right connector. Or that if I’m going on an extended trip, I can only bring one or two powerful chargers rather than a separate charger for each device. USB-C provides huge peace of mind.

Usually, you’re best off using a powerful charger that can scale down to your device, but sometimes even the ability to use an underpowered charger can be useful. In more than one instance, I’ve used a relatively weak phone charger to keep my PC from running out of battery when I don’t have the laptop’s power brick with me.