The end of an RJ45 Ethernet connector (left) vs. an RJ12 phone connector (right)
Ethernet and telephone cables look fairly similar and it is not uncommon to get the two mixed up. The key difference between the two is the size of the plastic connectors on the ends of the cable. Telephones use an RJ11/RJ12 connector whereas Ethernet uses RJ45. RJ11/RJ12 only uses 4-6 pins whereas RJ45 uses 8 pins. As a result, RJ11/RJ12 is physically smaller than RJ45 since it does not need to contain as many pins.
Both Ethernet and telephone cables are made using modular connectors. These are connectors that were designed to be used with registered jack (RJ) twisted-pair cables. The original modular jacks were invented by AT&T in the 1960s and used for some telephones. Over time they caught on and eventually became industry-standard in the 1970s.
Any modern business is going to be networked with Internet connections. Whether a business is in a small home office with a single computer and printer or an enormous building with hundreds of machines, a nervous system of cables and wiring will be essential to keep things running smoothly. When cables go missing or start to fail, losses in both productivity and profitability are sure to follow. Most homes have a drawer filled with spare cables and there is no reason that an office should not do the same thing, albeit with better organization than a junk drawer.
Every electronic device connected to the Internet uses Ethernet. Even if a device uses WiFi, the equipment generating that WiFi signal is connected via Ethernet. There are different types of Ethernet cable on the market. Newer types (called categories) of Ethernet are faster than older versions, but some are so fast that they can be overkill. Exactly how fast an Ethernet cable should be will depend on how much data is being used. No matter where it is located, an Ethernet cable going out is always sure to cause Internet outages. Keeping at least a few spares around is always a good idea.
Different types of cables have different functions and it is easy to view any cable as a single, working unit. But each cable is made of different layers, with each layer providing a different function. Learning how these pieces interact makes it easier to understand just how a cable works and what can be done to avoid damaging a cable.
Coax is one of the most common types of cable, having been in use for well over 100 years. While the technology has improved over time, the basic layout of coax cables is much the same today as it was at the time of its invention. Modern coax cables are most commonly used for television, radio, internet, and security camera connections.
The outermost layer of the cable is the jacket, designed to protect the more vulnerable inner components. Jackets are most commonly made from plastic and come in a few different varieties. Along with providing protection from outside elements, jackets also act as an outer insulator to contain any electrical or magnetic signals that leak past the other layers.
The next layer is the shield, which can be braided or foil. While the shield does help to keep the electrical cable of the signal in, it is more meant to keep other signals out. If a coax cable is near something else that puts out strong signals that can potentially cause interference, such as heavy power lines or a cell tower, the shield cuts down
“Pinout” is a term describing how an electrical cable is wired. Some cables do not have pinouts because they only contain a single internal wire, like coax cables. But if a cable has multiple pins on the end of the cable, it will have a pinout.
Each type of multi-pin cable has a standard pinout or two, but these layouts are not set in stone. Some machines will require non-standard pinouts; this will require users to use a custom cable.
Pinouts also come into play when using a cable with two different ends. For example, going from DB9 (9 pins) to DB25 (25 pins) will mean the DB25 side has 16 unused, “dead” pins.
If you need to know what pinout a cable needs, ideally there will be a spec sheet handy showing it. The next best option is contacting the manufacturer of the equipment the cable will be used with to see if they have a spec sheet available. If you have a cable tester available, that can be used to see how the pins line up. As a last resort, a cable can also be cut open to verify the pinout.
In the guide below, we will be highlighting the standard pinout configuration for common types of multi-pin cables.
Ethernet uses two main pinouts, straight and crossover. Straight cables are used to connect computers to other devices, like modems and routers. Crossover cables are used to connect two computers directly. The wires inside ethernet cables are color-coded to industry standards, making it easy to follow the standard pinout options.
Anyone who has ever used a desk or wall phone knows they all have one problem in common: cords getting tangled. In the long run, it does not particularly matter how careful or gentle you are with a coiled handset cord. Eventually, the cord is going to end up as a jumbled mess. Preventing a cord from tangling in the first place is where a detangler comes in.
Phone cords do not last forever. When a cord starts to tangle, the smaller wires inside the cord begin to bend the wrong ways and start developing small, unnoticeable kinks. While the damage does not have immediate effects, it does add up over time. Eventually, the phone cord will start to have static because the damaged wires can no longer transmit a phone signal properly.
Along with a static-filled signal, tangled cords are just annoying. You sit there trying to keep the cord straight as it wraps around itself, wraps around your hand, and knocks a picture frame off the table all while the damage keeps compiling. Eliminating this issue is arguably even more important than using a detangler to extend the life of the phone cord.
Functionally, a cord detangler is very simple. The detangler goes in-between the handset and the coiled cord. One side of the detangler plugs into the handset (where the phone cord would plug in normally) and then the phone cord goes into the other end of the detangler. The part of the detangler connected to the phone cord spins around, preventing the
Modern telephone cords have been in use for a long time, with little change since their invention in the 1970s. Finding phone cords in the store can be tricky today; many stores have stopped carrying telephone cables since so many people only use cell phones now. This rings especially true for coiled handset cords. With these cables becoming rarer, sometimes it is better to repair rather than replace them. Other times, users may just need a cable not available in a standard length.
There is a bit of variation with different connectors available, as well as different wiring schemes (called pinouts) for the smaller wires inside the main cord. This guide will cover how to attach a connector to the end of bare phone cable and the difference between wiring pinouts.
Step 1: Gathering the Supplies
There are a few simple supplies that will be needed for an installation or repair. The key components are the bare phone cable and the correct type of connectors. There are three main types of connectors that can be used. RJ12 is the most common, being used on flat line cords that connect the base of a telephone to the wall. RJ11 is an older version of RJ12, and they are the same size. The difference is that RJ11 uses four internal wires (called conductors) while RJ12 uses six. RJ12 is backwards compatible with RJ11, but RJ11 will not work with RJ12.
American Wire Gauge (AWG)
What is American Wire Gauge (AWG)?
American Wire Gauge (AWG, sometimes called the Brown & Sharpe wire gauge) is the standardized wire gauge system used to measure the size of electric conducting wire in the United States since 1857. AWG refers to wire made with a solid metal core. It is represented as a simple number that is calculated by finding the radius of the wire, squaring that number, and multiplying it by pi (AWG = πr²). The smaller the number is, the thicker the cable will be.
Stranded wire is also commonly referred to using AWG, but it a little more complex. Because standard cables are made using multiple wires instead of a single solid core, they can be given multiple numbers. For example, a cable called “24 AWG (7x32)” means that the overall outer diameter is 24 AWG but on the inside, the cable has seven 32 AWG wires.
Common Wire Gauges
Certain types of cables will always be the same AWG. For example, RG58 cable is always made as a 20 AWG cable regardless of manufacturer. Coax cables tend to be the same size across the board with different connectors made for the different kinds of cables. There are a few exceptions, such as cables with Quad Shielding being a little thicker and needing special connectors, but these are few and far between.
On the other side of that, there are some cables that come in different variants and as a result, can have different AWGs. Ethernet cable is a prime example for this. Standard ethernet cable is typically 23 or 24 AWG from most manufacturers. However, you also have versions like
Telephone cords are one of the more basic types of cables. Phone cables have remained mostly the same over the years with a few small changes here and there. There is a little terminology to know that will tell you a bit more about your phone lines, such as how they are wired and what type of plastic connector is on the end of the cable.
Phone cords come in two varieties, flat cords used to connect phones to the wall and coiled cords used for handset receivers. Flat cords will use either an RJ11 or RJ12 connector. These two connectors are the same size and look the same on the outside. On the inside, RJ11 will have four metal contacts for the internal wires inside the cable while RJ12 has six contacts. Since they are the same size, RJ12 is backwards compatible with RJ11. However, since RJ11 is the older of the two it is not compatible with RJ12.
The next distinction is whether your flat cord is straight or reverse. Straight cables are used to send data, like a fax machine, while reverse cables are used for voice, like a telephone. On a straight cable, the wires will connect to the same metal pins on either side of the cable. Pin 1 to pin 1, pin 2 to pin 2, etc. On a reverse cable, the opposite is true. For RJ12, a reverse cable would go pin 1 to pin 6, pin 2 to pin 5, etc.
Round versions of the flat cord also exist but are usually used for something other than a phone. Typically, they are equipped with extra features that make them larger than the average flat cable, such as something built for outdoor use or