AC adapters are an ever increasing part of our lives. Cell phones, digital cameras, GPS devices, MP3 players, and of course laptop computers all use them. I personally have at least a dozen in my house, most are ThinkPad adapters which are deployed in critical spots to power my T400s. I also have four or five in my office, and of course one in my backpack. I certainly don't want to be stranded somewhere without one. Working at Lenovo exposes you to more computer users in one day than probably any job in the world. Everyone I see has a ThinkPad in hand either on the way to a meeting or is already there using one. It's very common for Lenovians to carry an AC adapter to meetings, especially if they are long ones. Trust me I've certainly been in my share of those.
Martha would be proud
Over the years I've noticed that people are not just physically, but are also emotionally connected to their AC adapters. It's scary just how much attention is paid to them. People zip them into special pouches, carefully carry them their in laptop bags, or purses, slide them into a convenient pocket, or sling them over their shoulder like a jaunty scarf. Some people label them with their business card to avoid disappearing adapter syndrome. This happens way too often in the corporate world. I've had a few people even suggest we make the adapters the exact size of their business card to enable this practice more neatly. These are probably the same people who diligently arrange/label the snarl of cords and cables behind their computer desk. I think Martha Stewart did an entire show on this.
Are you a winder, wadder, or something else?
One of the most interesting things I have noticed is that everyone seems to have a slightly different method for winding up the adapter cord when they are ready to hit the road. They have a tendency to fall into a few categories. Some people carefully stretch and straighten the cord then precisely wind it around the adapter body parallel to the longest dimension. Others quickly wrap the cord around the body in the opposite direction. This type of winder typically takes less time to neaten things up. A few just wad the cord up in a snarl and sinch it to the adapter body with the Velcro. I like to call these people wadders. I guess they must be more interested in speed than neatness. I've also seen some cord purists bundle the cord independent of the adapter body.
Design inspiration can come from your own backyard
We have designed many AC adapters over the life of the ThinkPad brand. Some new processor power requirement is typically the driver for a new design. Big ones, small ones, short ones, fat ones have all passed through the design studio.Of course we have tried designing the adapter shape to make winding up the cord eaiser. My favorite design earned the nick named the "dog bone". It won several design awards back when it was first introduced. Oddly enough, the very features we built into the adapter to aid winding made some people unhappy. The distraught crowd often stated it didn't match their own winding style. Interesting, the shape actually helped winding whether you wound the long or short way. Some whined that it looked like a dog bone. Is that such a bad thing? Perhaps they missed an opportunity to train their dog to fetch more than a pair of fuzzy slippers. Such is the life of a designer, everyone is a critic. Subsequent ThinkPad adapters have been pretty simple in design. They usually feature form fitting black cases, heat dissipating ribs, molded logos, a zillion agency approval marks, and of course a grey Velcro strap to top things off. We haven't given up on making something that adds winding value. The trick it to invent something that doesn't add size, cost, or weight. It also can't have design features that jam, break off, hook your clothing or make the myriad of winders and wadders mad. Something to think about while you're unwinding over the holidays. David Hill