Friday, September 3, 2010

Clever design

A few weeks ago I picked up a cheap 4GB thumb drive to have some redundancy for the only "big" drive I had, an 8GB Transcend. I don't think I spent two seconds picking it up, there were a bunch, all from similar brands, all priced the same. Now, after using the new stick a bunch of times I have come to appreciate how sometimes designers manage to lower costs while providing novel solutions to annoying problems.

The Transcend stick, and almost every USB stick I have owned, has a mechanism to expose and hide the USB plug. This is to make sure that the USB connector doesn't break by accident. The problem with this is that the latch that keeps it engaged is weak, and after a few dozen times most thumb drives will become harder to connect without accidentally making the connector collapse. The new stick that I bought solves this issue pretty cleverly. Here are the two sticks in the closed position:
 Now here are the same two sticks with the USB plug exposed:
 Notice that the Transcend is now longer because it extends the USB plug, but the Dane-Elec is still the same lenght. Why? Because they use the body as a sliding jacket to protect the plug. It also means never having to worry about the plug collapsing while trying to use the drive. Even if the plastic becomes a bit loose, it will still work exactly as designed. This design isn't perfect: you still risk that the cover will slide open and damage the drive accidentally, but it will not be an issue for much longer time than if this was using a spring-loaded button like the Transcend.
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