The dopey dongle

I can’t believe I’m alone in thinking that the USB dongle must be one of the most badly designed, if well intentioned, devices ever to be plugged into a laptop.

I’ve usually managed to avoid these items by generally going with PCMCIA options when adding things to laptops, but recently had to add a wireless mouse, which needed the inevitable dongle, dangling almost 4 centimetres outside the edge of the laptop body. I just knew the inevitable would happen.

Things were fine for a while, but eventually you grow used to these things, and I discovered it wasn’t only moving the laptop that could be a problem, but also things around it. The first dongle bend wasn’t too bad, and was easily remedied, but had proved the principle for problems.

The second event was more serious, and was simply a “real world” event when the laptop was moved, and the fact that dongle stuck out so far mean it caught and ripped out at an angle. It basically disassembled itself, and the USB section was all but ripped off the PCB. Fortunately, being mounted on the end of the board meant there was little to be damaged, and after a little re-engineering, glue, and solder, things were back together again – and working fine.

Third up was potentially the worst case, and with the best of care, a drop will happen, and did, soon after the first repair. Because the repair was stronger in some respects than the original USB fitting, and in this case the USB plug was slightly bent out of shape. Cue a repeat repair, and a little bit of delicate metal bashing and all was well again, but there little doubt that repeating this damage was not going to go on time after time with no ill effect, so although it means dragging a wire around, an extension will have to be used to avoid this in future.

It seems silly that the standard solid long dongle design persists, as it seems bound to get damaged at some point in its life.

I just picked up a free USB wireless dongle – same dopey design which sticks out of the laptop for almost 5 centimetres. Fortunately, I don’t actually need it.

These long USB dongles just seem to be crying out for some sort of intelligent redesign, or even just a simple hinge.

If they could be reduced in size, which doesn’t seem impractical given what is visible on the board (I reckon the length could easily be halved), it would help, although I suppose the antenna needs are likely to mean they would never shrink down to the size of the Bluetooth USB dongles which can be fitted and almost forgotten, as they only extend about 5 millimetres from the socket.

Oh well, I’ll just enjoy my cordless mouse… with its cord!


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