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Monthly Archives: April 2019

  1. Types (Categories) of Ethernet Cable

    Ethernet cables are the lifeline of any Internet connection and one of the most common types of cables used today. Since its invention in 1974, Ethernet has come a long way as technology has advanced and upgrades have been developed. As these advancements are implemented, older versions of Ethernet are phased out for newer models. But a lot of older Ethernet cables are still in use and work well enough, so it is important to know the difference between the different varieties on the market today.

    While some Ethernet cables are better than others, simply switching out cables will not always improve Internet connections. Your internet service provider (ISP) determines your maximum Internet speed and you get whatever you pay for. Upgrading from Cat5e to Cat6 can usually show an improvement, but unless you already have a very high Internet bill do not expect Cat8 to work any miracles.

    Each type of Ethernet cable is given a different category. These categories are essentially version numbers, so higher numbers mean the cable is newer and will run better. Improvements can also be made to Ethernet without upgrading to an entirely new category, such as Cat6 vs. Cat6a as opposed to Cat7. The requirements for an Ethernet upgrade to qualify as a new category are set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).

    Cat5e

    Cat5e (“e” for “enhanced”) is an upgrade from the original (outdated) Cat5 cable. This is the current standard for Ethernet and has completely replaced all older forms of Ethernet. If you have a cable that came with a new computer, modem, or other electronic, it is likely Cat5e. These cables support up to 1 Gbps (gigabyte per second) and are gen

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  2. When to Replace Old Cables & Cords

    Like any piece of hardware out there, cables can suffer from wear-and-tear as time marches on. Even if cables keep running perfectly as the years go by, they will get to the point of being outdated. Some cables are also more prone to needing replacement than others. Knowing when to replace a cable can make electronics run better, save on your electric bill, and even prevent potential safety issues. But what exactly you need to look for when thinking about replacing something is going to depend on which type of cable we are talking about.

    Ethernet – Now or the near-future

    Ethernet cables have been through a lot of changes over the years. At the moment, the standard version is Cat5e cable. If the writing on the outside of the cable says Cat5 (or a lower number), it is time to be replaced. Internet service providers today work on the assumption that you are using at least Cat5e cable, as do most websites and other online services.

    If you need to upgrade, it is worth taking Cat6 cable into consideration. This is the next step up for Ethernet and will be the new standard once Cat5e is inevitably phased out. Cat6 can support data speeds up to ten times faster than Cat5e. While this is overkill for at-home use right now, upgrading to Cat6 will ensure you do not have to upgrade again for a very long time.

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  3. Spring Cleaning: Cables to Keep (Or Not)

    Cables to Keep Around the House

    Spring is here and a lot of us are going to use that nicer weather to get a little cleaning done. If your house is anything like everyone else's, there is probably a junk drawer somewhere with a big mess of old cables. After untangling all the knots, you will want to look at each cable to see what you should keep and what can be tossed.

    Keep: Micro USB 2.0

    Micro USB is better known as a “phone charger” since they are mostly used for Android phones. Not to mention tablets, streaming devices, smart speakers, and more. Micro USB is not going anywhere anytime soon, so keeping a few extras around is a good idea right now.

    Keep: Micro USB 3.0

    This upgraded Micro USB is mostly used for external hard drives. Some cell phones use these for charging cables too. While not as widespread as the older 2.0 version, this is new enough that hanging onto one or two of them is worth it.

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  4. History of Video Cables

    Many electronics have to be connected to a monitor before you can use them. Even devices with their own screens like smartphones and laptops have that option so users have the option of using bigger displays like televisions and projectors. Over the years, many new video cables been introduced and gradually replace the old as technology continues to grow. Modern high-def TVs have come a long way from the black and white TVs of old.

    1956: Composite RCA is introduced, becoming a common standard for televisions, VCRs, LaserDisc, video game consoles, computers, and more for the next several decades. Each cable can only send a single signal, paving the way for multi-signal cables to eventually replace RCA in the future.

    1979: S-Video is released as a superior (for its time) alternative to composite RCA. It is included on VCRs, home computers, and some early video game consoles up through the early 90s.

    1987: VGA was initially created by IBM for their x86 machines. It worked so well that VGA went on to become an industry standard on computers, televisions, projectors, and other electronics. Over time, it becomes the most successful and longest lasting analog connector.

    1990s: Component RCA, an upgrade to composite, is developed. While powerful for an analog cable, it has little time to catch on before digital cables start becoming the new standard.

    1999

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  5. Computer Monitors – Cables and Cords

    Hooking up a computer monitor is not terribly complicated but there are a few different types of cables that can be used to get the job done. Before even purchasing a monitor, start by checking the computer itself. Look at the back to the machine to see what kind of video ports are on there. Ideally, you will want the same type of connection on the monitor and computer. If you find yourself with a mismatching monitor and computer, you can use an adapter or converter to change one type of connection to another.

    When making your selection, there are five main types of connections built onto modern monitors: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB.

    VGA

    VGA (also called HD15) is an older type of video-only connection. Many used or outdated monitors will have this type of connection while newer models probably will not. VGA is the old standard for monitors and has since been replaced with newer formats. Out of all the monitor connections still in use today, VGA is the only one that is purely analog. This means VGA has a maximum resolution of 640 x 480, a far cry from the 1080p quality available with digital connections. Generally, users only want to use

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  6. History of Coax Cables

    Coax cables are capable of transmitting radio frequency (RF) signals and have served as the backbone of communications technology for decades. From radios to telephones to televisions to computers, coax cable has seen continued use even as the technology it supports continues to evolve. Stretching back over 100 years, the origins of coax cables begin towards the end of the 19th century.

    Coax cable
Inventor
Scientist
Mathematician

    Oliver Heaviside, the grandfather of modern coax cable

    1880: The original coax cable was created by English inventor Oliver Heaviside. Heaviside studied telegraph lines and discovered wrapping the lines with insulation reduced signal loss and made cables more durable. With this discovery, he created and patented the world’s first coax cable.

    1884: A second coax cable is patented in Germany by the electrical engineering company Siemens & Halske (later merged with the company Siemens).

    1894: Nikola Tesla files the first American patent on electrical conductors, which later become a key component in the birth of the modern coax cable.

    1916: Lloyd E

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  7. Coax Connectors - Crimp vs. Solder vs. Compression vs. Twist-On

    Coax cables are fairly simple to assemble, but there are a few different ways to go about doing so. Having a good coax signal is heavily dependant on installing a connector correctly. If you are unsure about how to install a coax connector, see our installation guide here.

    Whether crimp, solder, compression, and twist-on is the best option will depend on the exact setting the cable will be used in. Consider questions such as:

    • Is the cable low- or high-voltage?
    • Will it be used for field-work or factory-work?
    • How experienced are the individuals working with the cable?
    • How long is the cable expected to last?
    • What is the budget?
    • Will the cable be in a hazardous environment (extreme temperatures, exposure to chemicals, vibrating machinery, etc.)?

    The details below cover the different options with general, overall performance in mind. If other factors come into play, a type of connector not normally considered “the best” could be your best option.

    Crimp

    Crimp connectors are the most popular option and the go-to for most professionals. Crimping has two large advantages over the other options: it is easy and it is fast. With good tools and enough know-how, a crimp connector can be attached in less than 30 seconds.

    Crimping works by taking the metal sleeve of the connector and squeezing it tightly onto the cable, securing the connector into place. It sounds simple, but these connections are gas-tight and can hold up to any reasonable pull test when secured properly. The only special tool needed to install a crimp connector is a

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  8. What is a “Null Modem” Cable?

    Null modem, also called crossover, is a term associated with serial (RS-232) cables. A standard serial cable, also called an AT cable, has the wires inside the cable running straight through. Take a DB9 cable as an example. Pin 1 on one end of the cable would be connected to Pin 1 on the other end. Then Pin 2 to 2, 3 to 3, and so on. Null modem cables are serial cables that use an alternative pinout for different functionality.

    A standard DB9 AT cable pinout (non-null modem)

    Originally, all serial cables were AT cables and could not connect two devices (such as two computers) directly. They required a modem or similar equipment as a go-between. Null modem cables changed that old standard, allowing devices to be linked up directly with no middleman equipment. This allows older computers and other machines with serial ports to transfer data between each other directly, similar to more modern ethernet crossover cables.

    Null modem cables work by switching around wire pairs when going from one end of the cable to the other. Returning to the DB9 example, a null modem cable would have Pin 2 on one side connected to Pin 3 on the other side. Then Pin 4 would be connected to Pin 6 and Pin 7 to Pin 8. Pins 1 and 9 are unused

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  9. NEMA vs. IEC: Power Cord Regulations

    NEMA and IEC are the two most common standards for power cords used in North America. NEMA connectors are on the side of the power cord that plugs into an AC wall outlet. IEC connectors are the side that plugs into devices like computers or TVs. By and large, NEMA and IEC are compatible with each other. There are many similarities between NEMA and IEC standards, but they are not quite the same.

    NEMA Connectors

    NEMA is an acronym for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Established in 1926, NEMA is an American organization focused on creating, establishing, and promoting safety standards for electrical equipment. Power cords are one of many items that fall under their jurisdiction. Despite being an American organization, NEMA standards are also primarily used in Canada and Mexico as well as parts of Central and South America, nearby small island nations such as Cuba, and some larger countries across the sea like Japan.

    NEMA connectors are labeled as two numbers separated by a dash. The first number indicates the voltage rating of the cable; “5” stands for 125 volts and “6” stands for 250 volts. The second number indicates the amperage of the plug. There will also be a letter after the numbers, either a “P” for plug or an “R” for receptacle. For example, a 5-15P connector will be a plug rated for 125 volts and 15 amps.

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