Cables Not Included

Remember as a child ripping open your holiday gifts, only to find that batteries were not included? These days, it's cables that will ruin the perfect gift experience.

Mike Fratto

December 10, 2007

2 Min Read
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I remember fondly the holidays when I was a young boy, sitting under the tree, ripping open presents only to find that I couldn't use them because batteries are not included. Those four words became a mantra during the '70s and '80s and even a cheesy movie. Fast forward to today, and it's cables that will ruin the perfect gift experience. Unlike batteries, which are fairly standardized in sizes, cables come in a plethora of types, interfaces, and many up-features like gold plating that make cable purchases more difficult than ever. Need a Firewire cable, er, should I say IEEE 1394? Which interface to which interface: 4-pin to 4-pin? 4-pin to 6-pin? Or 6-pin to 6-pin? Audio/visual cables can be even more confusing for the unenlightened. Compounding the problem is that the product boxes, and even online literature, don't always give clear guidance on what cables are required.

We needed a video camera for our lab to shoot interviews and take to shows. After a lot of research, I decided to buy a Canon HV-20 for the Network Computing lab. One of my requirements was that I needed to be able to pull the video using either a Windows or Mac. All the literature I read indicated that I could pull video off using USB or IEEE 1394. Great. I went with the purchase.

Imagine my surprise when I finally sat down to learn how to use the camera to find that there is no way to get the video off the camera using USB, which I found out after about 30 minutes of searching and finally landing on an obscure page on Canon's support site. I wasn't alone in my assumption, either, judging by the number of other people asking the very same question (and getting wrong answers, I might add) in forums. But even that document didn't specify which IEEE 1394, a 4-pin or 6-pin interface cable I needed for the camera. Luckily, I had the camera next to me. I think it reprehensible that basic supplies like cables aren't included with expensive consumer electronics. Unlike batteries, cables don't expire or dry up. When I purchase a camera like the HV-20, which lists at about $900, a $15 dollar IEEE 1394 cable should have been included.

My advice this holiday season: Before you purchase those electronics, make sure you spec out the cables first and then ensure that the cables are either in the box or that you can purchase them. Oh, and if you spend more than $20 for a cable, you're wasting your money.

About the Author(s)

Mike Fratto

Former Network Computing Editor

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