What Happened to Hardware Standards?

A hopeless quest for compatibility

Every time I try to connect anything SCSI (SCSI-1, SCSI-2, SCSI-3, Wide, Fast, Ultra Wide, Ultra Fast, Super Wide, Super Fast), I feel like I'm forcing square pegs into round holes. Supposedly, developing the SCSI interface would make computing easier. SCSI was supposed to provide a fast storage interface that also let you daisy chain multiple devices from one bus port. Instead, implementing SCSI involves a confusing jumble of cables and connectors. What ever happened to a unified SCSI standard?

I have an 8mm Exabyte tape drive connected to my Toshiba laptop with an Adaptec Slim SCSI PC Card. The short cable connecting the laptop to the tape drive has a connector not much thicker or wider than a silver dollar on one end. The other end of the cable has a much larger connector (often referred to as a Centronix connector) with rows of thick brass contacts. The small connector attaches to the PC Card and the larger connector attaches to the tape drive. This connection worked perfectly until I decided to connect a 25GB Compaq ProLiant RAID array to my laptop.

To interface the RAID array to my laptop, I installed another cable between the tape drive and the RAID array. This cable had two 50-pin connectors on each end that looked nothing like the connectors on the cable between the PC Card and the tape drive. In the Windows NT Magazine Lab, we have dozens of SCSI cables, so finding one with the right connectors was no simple task. For an interface that's supposed to make connecting computer hardware devices easy, SCSI hasn't done a very respectable job. If the vendors could agree on one set of connectors and matching icons, life would be easier for all of us. But that's not likely to happen.

Too Many Ports and Slots
SCSI isn't the only guilty party. Custom ports and slots also exist in every area of system hardware. This situation reminds me of buying a Japanese motorcycle. Japanese motorcycles run well for the first 2 years. Then parts start breaking, and you discover that the company stopped producing the model you bought 2 years ago. Subsequently, the right parts for your motorcycle are hard to find. Ultimately, you decide to buy a new motorcycle because it will cost you less than trying to maintain the old one.

The Situation Couldn't Get Any Weirder, Right?
I've seen numerous unrelated graphics identifying audio jacks, such as dots with ripples, miniature speakers or headphones, and musical notes. Just when I thought things couldn't get any weirder, I discovered a new graphic: a pair of glasses stamped into the back of a video card next to a 7-pin DIN connector.

After doing some research, I discovered this graphic represents a pair of stereovision glasses--the next best thing to full-sized, gyroscope-equipped headgear for virtual reality simulations. StereoGraphics (http://www.stereographics.com) makes the stereovision glasses almost exclusively, and numerous graphics card vendors (e.g., Intergraph, HP, and Diamond Multimedia) support them. However, each of these vendors uses a different port that requires a different cable.

Overwhelming Options
All these options are making my head hurt. I yearn for something--anything--that adheres to open standards. But I'm beginning to think a Harley Davidson is as close as I'm going to get to those standards.

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