What Hard Where?
by Ben Sherman
For some reason unfathomable to me, and explainable only by a Murphy-like law, the computer ports you need the most are always located in the most inconvenient places. My computer is a medium tower case which sits under my desk with its back to the wall. The ports which the motherboard designers have so ridiculously thought to place facing the rear of the case are tremendously inaccessible. For one thing, there isn't any light at the back of the case, so it is difficult to see what is what. For another, because the case is so big and heavy it tends to be placed rather permanently under my desk. The cables are ugly to look at, and bulky in their own right.
It used to be that once set up, I never needed to add or subtract any cable from the serial, parallel, modem, or sound ports existing on the rear of the computer. Recently that has all changed for me. I just acquired a bunch of gadgets that want to have frequent non-permanent visitor status. These include an external back-up device; a game joystick; a scanner; and a digital camera. Plugging and unplugging them, in the dark cramped space under my desk is a daunting task at best, and a dangerous one at worst.
This is where my port box idea came from. It would be a small box containing all the ports found on the back of a computer. At the rear there would be cables connecting the computer to the box. The cables would be long enough to permit the box to easily be moved to an area of accessibility, namely the front of the computer, while still being connected to the back ports. At the front would be mirror images of the rear ports, with one exception: the ports would be on telescoping cables, much like those found on walkman headphones or vacuum cleaner power cords.
When, for example, a digital camera would need to connect to my printer port, I would reach down to the port box and gently pull it to the front of my computer. Then I would pull only the printer port out of the box and put it on the top of my desk, unplug my printer, plug in my camera, download the images. When finished I would reverse the process. The box would void the necessity of having to manually pull the computer case out from under my desk. It would also eliminate the added stress on the printer port and on the motherboard that the constant plugging and unplugging would cause. (This stress would not disappear, it would be transferred to the port box.)
Lastly, the port box would have its own light source. I could see two types: an actual light bulb, or an illuminating material that flouresces when a current passes through it. The former would provide better light, but at the expense of heat and possibly bulk. The latter would provide a weaker light without measurable heat. Both would try to correct the problem of fidgeting in the dark with cables, ports, and structurally weak connector pins.
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