Infinite USB plug created by Chinese design student

| March 22nd, 2010

So honestly I’ve gotten a little bored of all the scandals, internet celebrities, political issues, censorship stories, protests, riots, etc. that China blogs usually cover so I’ve recently tried to post things that are a bit more fun and quirky – for example, the Chinese version of a Danish bacon commercial, the magic tricks by Liu Qian, the strangely totalitarian dating rules, etc. Of course, this does not affect Key, Annie, or Nancy – they will continue to do whatever they want. Also, I trust that most of the other China blogs will cover the usual (i.e. the new chinadivide, Shanghaiist, China Media Project, China Digital Times, Danwei, Global Voices, ESWN, etc.) and I hope that they continue to do so.

Also, since I peruse a lot of other blogs, I want to bring in things from some English blogs that the typical "China blog readers" might not read. Of course, these will still be relevant to China.

This is from Engadget:

They say:

In a classic case of "why didn’t we think of this first," Chinese design student Gonglue Jiang has shown us a new way for overcoming the limitations imposed by the scarcity of USB ports on some computers. Instead of forcing you to constantly hot swap devices into that one port, Gonglue’s Infinite USB plugs keep all your cables connected, thereby facilitating those smartphone syncs, spy camera recharges, and — for the ultimate irony — maybe even a USB hub.

20 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. georgeson says:

    This is funny! It reminds me the plastic toys that I played in my childhood.

  2. jay says:

    but waitasec, won’t the devices conflict since they are all sharing the same port? don’t they share system resources? If I have two USB mice connected like that, and they are both moving, which signal gets processed? if I have two USB microphones, does it blend the signal from both?

    • Wang Er says:

      As an engineer, I’m glad to provide you with some information here.

      No they wouldn’t conflict. An USB or Universal Serial Bus is an asymmetric communication specification that allows multiply devices hooked to one port and transmit data between host port and client devices “at the same time”. The host (your PC for example) assigns each device an unique identification number and keep polling/inquiring each devices with small packages of data like “hey, device 103, do you have any data that you want to pass to me?”, and when such data are ready, the device acknowledges the host and transmits data of at most (approximately) 1K bits (or 128 bytes) to the host. Thus the devices take turns in transmitting data to the host and because each transmission usually takes few hundred nanoseconds and the total bandwidth between host and all devices can be as much as 57MB/s in USB 2.0, it appears almost simultaneous to users (the bit-rate of your keyboard/mouse signal is almost ignorable to such bandwidth, even you smack them like made 🙂 ). And no the two microphones’ signal wouldn’t blend since it’s digital signal and each phone transmits data to your PC in separate time domains.

      However, the number of allowed devices doesn’t go infinite. As I have said, the host needs to assign an ID to each device, but since there are only 7 bits in the address space, you have at most 2^7-1=127 IDs (the minus one is for reserved ID zero) for each host controller on your PC (and your PC usually have few such controllers). Also the latency of transmission between host and devices, which is about Resistance*Capacitance which is squarely proportional to the wire length, must be smaller than few couple of thousand nanoseconds, so the physical distance between host and devices is usually limited to few meters. Third, some USB devices are powered by the +5Volt voltage line in the USB cable and each none-self-powered devices would pull down the voltage a little until to a point the USB host fails to work. Thus you usually end up with much less number of devices than 127.

      • Wang Er says:

        There are few typos but you get the idea.

        “even you smack them like mad” in the second paragraph.

        “few couple of thousand nanoseconds” should be “few couples of hundreds of nanoseconds” in the last paragraph.

      • hacksoncode says:

        In theory this might be true, but I don’t know of a single host controller actually in existence that will properly deal with 2 usb devices on the same physical wires.

        The only way (in practice) this could work is if each plug were a hub. And then it would be limited (again, in practice) to 5 plugs.

  3. Very nice! Very useful for those of us who want to have a variety of gadgets going at once. I guess I haven’t reached that point yet, but I’m sure I will do someday soon.

  4. Hahaha says:

    Pity they will be copied by every Chinese manufacturer and the designer will get no benefit from his design!

  5. asdf says:

    Now watch all the western companies steal this idea.

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  7. Adam says:

    Hey does anyone know if a publicly traded company is going to buy or use this idea to a great extent?

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