The announcement that micro-USB is to become a standard charger for most mobiles is to be welcomed, but I can’t help feeling that computer users are getting the short end of the stick.
Go into any IT department today and you’ll find armloads of power cables for desktop PCs, all with the same three pin socket that fits nicely into the back of the beige box. Power supplies for PCs were largely standardised years ago and have remained that way ever since.
The reason for this is very simple. In the 80s and 90s the policy of PC manufacturers was to sell on volume and so they went for the cheapest and most readily available power supplies available.
However if you are a laptop user it’s a very different story. In the past decade I’ve been using laptops from Dell, IBM, Asus, Lenovo, Fujitsu Seimens, Acer and HP and they all use different power supplies. Dell’s are particularly unwieldy and the day I handed back that laptop was one of the happier ones of my life.
Why is this? Because there’s gold in them thar power supplies. Laptop manufacturers worked out early on that there was a significant market in selling power cables to dozy businessmen and consumers who were constantly leaving them in hotel rooms and conferences.
Now the unit cost to manufacture a power cable for a laptop is fairly small; you just need a transformer (old, cheap technology) and a few wires. But you can sell them for large amounts, because without them the laptop becomes a very expensive paper-weight. Sadly this practice has since spread to some desktop PCs too.
As a result littering my house is a collection of now redundant power transformers that, if I could get around to throwing them out, would make a toxic mess for my grandchildren to deal with.
Yes, there are opportunities to get rid of them usefully using services like Freecycle but the fact remains that there are now millions of the damn things clogging up cupboards and landfills across the world – and there’s no need for this situation.
Now there are so-called universal adaptors but I’ve got two of the things and they don’t work on all models, despite what the manufacturers claim.
Now computer manufacturers are constantly spouting their green credentials these days, but it’s about time we as consumers held them to account on this. While it’s good that as much of the laptop you are using came from recycled goods and can also be recycled in itself there are still a few glaring holes in their argument.
Power supplies are part of this. If the bulk of the mobile industry can gat together and agree a standard like this (excluding Apple, as my colleague has pointed out) why can’t computer manufacturers get together and do the same.
However I fear this will be about as likely as a porcine aerial display team performing loop the loops over Silicon Valley. There’s too much money in selling power supplies to dozy computer users it seems.
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