Charging Ahead

Cell phones are moving toward a single universal charger standard. What's next?


futureshape (CC Licensed)

We've all got the drawer. It has an indiscriminate collection of electronic connections, cords, and chargers for devices we haven't used in a decade and couldn't give away on eBay for free. But we guard that drawer with Obamian hope that the next purchase might actually require a serial port connection or that dot-matrix printers might hold the key to cold fusion. We wait for just one occasion to justify our persistence and silence throughout decades of shrieks from our significant others. It's likely that within that drawer are somewhere between six and ten cell phone chargers, one perhaps still connected through its one-of-a-kind connection to that swanky new flip phone you bought in 1999. We understand. We too have such a drawer, or cabinet or garage. But together, today, it's time to let go, just a little bit.

This week, 17 cell phone manufacturers agreed to -- yes -- a single truly universal charger that frees us from the tangle of chargers past (technically not till 2012, so don't empty the drawer just yet). But as we conduct this catharsis of connectivity, we ask you to demand more. Help us compile a list of what else in technology, and society, should be universal.

The micro-USB (not to be confused with the currently more common mini-USB) is the chosen plug to erase years of incompatibility, starting in 2012. Nearly all the big manufacturers (with the notable exception of Apple) have agreed to the shift. The announcement came at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. So, great. At least one device will be truly universal.

Below, we begin a broader brainstorming aimed at universalizing this world. We know you people love to comment (mostly criticize), so tell us why our ideas are dumb and offer up a few suggestions of your own. Perhaps we'll publish the address of the winner of the best idea, and we can all send our leftover chargers to their humble abode.

Laptop Chargers
Leaving your laptop charger at home shouldn't require you to miss your flight out of sheer panic. Every hotel charging more than a Motel 6 should stock them in every room between the Ethernet cord, the pizza delivery options list, and the copy of the Bible. At the least, one given freaking brand could stay consistent from model to model.

Crayon Colors
When did red become no longer red? Can we get Crayola to calm down with the options? Nobody likes seeing a drawing on the fridge done in seven shades of periwinkle. We don't care if it was a seven-year-old who drew it.

Okay. We get that not every device can run off the same Duracell, but we're always guaranteed to have all the wrong types in the cupboard, and two dead stragglers at the bottom of the box just to rub it in. So we're willing to compromise. Let's ditch double-A batteries completely. Triple-A is close enough in size and anything that can run off a double-A could be configured for multiple triple-A.

Shoe Size
We're not quite sure what being an 11 means, but can't it mean the same thing for all brands? Why must we ask whether a specific brand runs big or runs small? A 2x4 is always a 2x4, no matter the lumberyard (okay, technically it's not, but you get the point).

Computer Ink
We hate computer ink. It's a complete racket that's ripe for a revolution. So let's get the five big printer companies to agree on a cartridge size, so the process of paying $42 for our monthly ink refill doesn't require 25 minutes in Office Depot with a magnifying glass, searching for some arbitrary code.

They have programs for passwords with passwords. There's got to be a universal password so we don't have to change it once a month or get locked out of some software program for forgetting which random number we tagged at the end of our last name. Come to think of it, our signature is a truly unique password according to CSI, so let's figure out a way to use that for every account we've got.

What are we leaving out?