Thingamajig Thursday: audio plugs

David K. Israel

Whelp, it's Thursday folks. And you know what that means! One more day until the weekend? Nahhh. Try time for another Thingamajig Thursday. Today I'm naming what my father calls "wires."

It's true. No matter what kind of audio plug we're talking about, to him, and many others, they're just a bunch of "wires."

So let's start with the two on the top, there, which are called RCA plugs, or cables (sometimes jacks). Like the animals on Noah's ark, they generally come in pairs, white is left in the stereo field, and red is right. They were invented in the 1940s by the Radio Corporation of America (thus the name, RCA), and were meant to connect phonographs to radios. Nowadays we use them to connect any audio device, such as a CD player, to an amplifier.

On the other end of that cable, you'll often find the next plug in the photo, a 3.5mm plug, more commonly called either a 1/8" jack or a mini-stereo plug. It's the one that fits in your iPod, and just about any other portable audio device these days. If you go to Radio Shack and say, "I need a wire for my iPod," they'll probably know what you mean. But why not call it by its proper name?

Lastly we have the 1/4" plug, which is also called a stereo jack. If it looks similar to the ones you often see in B&W photos of stylish-looking women sitting at old-fashioned switchboards, that's because it is, and dates from the 1870s!

Of course, there are dozens more. But you should at least know the names of those three. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go forward this post to my dad"¦