Many electronic appliances are built to make electrical interconnections with one another, whether to supply power, exchange analog signals (audio/video/etc) or digital signals (keyboards, hard drives, etc), or simply to allow remote action of switches (remote buttons for cameras or speed pedals for sewing machines).
By design, these interconnections are built to be unique, both for ease of use (idiot-proofing only the right adapted connector goes in the right place), and for safety (idiot-proofing on only the right voltage make appropriate connections).
In the world of analog audio alone, we commonly use at least four gendered plug standards.
When it comes to “utility power” (the voltage you pay for that comes out your wall), there’s a respectable standardization for power connections.
However, when it comes to adapting utility power to the specific needs of your appliance, there are literally dozens of connector options which have been standardized/reserved for power adaptors and power supplies.
While one presume (hope) that these varieties would correspond to specific voltages or polarities, it is instead a tactic of proprietary product matching, where a manufacturer will force you to buy “their” power supply.
There is some solidarity; such as the community standard that (most) pro and boutique stomp-boxes all use a 9V DC adapter, with negative-tip polarity on a M-style barrel tip.
Gender conventions and confusion.
Many of these connections come in “gendered” pairs, with “male” plugs inserted into “female” ports.
Side note, these “female” ports are often called “jacks”… I ask, if we’re going with gender language (even metaphorically), why not name the female port a “Jill”…
Anyhow, um, if we’re going to run with this gender nomenclature…
I see “sexed” or “gendered” interconnects have historically been the norm.
Most power cables are male on one end, female on the other… making the one cable embody a “heterosexual” exchange.
Most cables for audio and other signals, (such as a guitar cable or RCA-styled cable for your turntable) are male on both ends, connecting the female output (?) of a your guitar/TV/iPod through male/male (homosexual”?) cable to the input female jack (“JILL !”) of your receiver/mixer/amp/speaker…
This may seem confusing to the gender-as-a-social-construct… but it tends to be easier to build things with female-ports on the hardware and male-bits on the cables. However, then you HAVE to label female inputs and female outputs to avoid improper connection.
In the “homo-normative” world of audio, the notable “hetero-normative” exception is the XLR cable (which carries the weakest of all the audio signals), where sources (microphones, mixer outputs) are always male, and inputs (on mixers, converters, or just other cables-as-extensions) are always female.
THIS design means the hardware is self evident whether it’s an input or an output, but now we have to unwind our cables the “right” way…
…While we’re on this tangent…
symmetrical (“hermaphroditic”?) connectors are usually more bulky and mechanically complicated to be prohibitive in their design and implementation.
I was shopping for an appropriate power adaptor for my Korg Volca pocket-synth, which comes stock with batteries. Since Korg does not market an official “volOne must purchase separately the 9V DC (positive tip) adaptor separately. I recall that, the last time I had a Korg volca unit, it was sold to me with a power adaptor whose barrel-tip was thinner than “standard,” with constrained yellow tip.
Looking to re-purchase the appropriate adaptor, I found this amusing posting on Amazon.
The listing did not spell out the polarity, voltage, or current/amperage of the supply, but they were visible to read on one of the product pictures.
This matches the electrical spec stated in the volca manual(s). Now about the anatomical fit…
Naturally, I checked the tip in the mouse-over zoom window, and was shocked to find..
…the manufacturer/seller has censored the distinctively-compatible tip.
and they censored JUST THE TIP… like it was some Japanese pornography. Perhaps this is standard practice for all Japanese exports with any gender/sex traits.
Having both the urge and ability to unpack all of this makes me feel simultaneously dumb, and smart, and old.
“Now I’ve seen it all,” except what I was searching to see in the first place…
Naturally, I took my business with Amazon elsewhere, and bought what I needed on eBay.