We all know the fundamental laws of the physical world: Newton’s first law of motion (a body in motion stays in motion), the second law of thermodynamics (randomness in an isolated system increases), Faraday’s law of electromagnetism (a changing magnetic field induces a current in a wire), and more. To this list, I would add another: the first law of consumer electronics cabling, which holds that any two wires laid side by side will immediately tangle the minute the user glances away. It’s an effect that worsens the thinner and more pliable the cable. (The second law of consumer electronics cabling is that any wire on the desktop will immediately fall behind the desk if left unattached, with a likelihood directly proportional to the difficulty of moving the desk to retrieve it.)
I think there’s a physics PhD in this.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic because I have way too many cords to wrangle—earbuds, USB cables, headset cables, electrode cables—and spend far too much time untangling them rather than writing thoughtful, well-researched technical pieces like this one. I have spent a lot of time on the web investigating different options without any particular success.
I started out with this little guy from Blue Lounge, which works splendidly for my USB phone charger but didn’t have the capacity for longer cables or to handle higher-gauge cables.
Next up, these little bones, which looked promising but when they showed up, they were only by the 16th of an inch wide at the edge. That meant that repeated winding and unwinding had the potential to damage the cable, plus they wouldn’t work well for anything more than a foot or two long. In addition, the little slits for putting in the cable were tight enough that I had to put a lot of stress on the cable to pull it through. None of this boded well for a long-term solution.
Now, I’d been looking for a multi-cord solution, but at this point I was beginning to lose faith a bit and thought I would investigate an ear-bud-centric solution. The design below was developed through Quirky, a crowd-funding development site. Although it’s designed for earbuds, I thought it might work for some electric wires I need to keep control of. Had a bevy of positive reviews, so I thought it might be The One. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Once again, there was that tight bend radius issue, plus the plastic was stiff enough that I felt like I was stressing the wires every time I push them into their little holding channel.
My sister pointed me toward the Cable Turtle, which had the advantage of appearing to be a multi-cord solution. Alas, it doesn’t have nearly the capacity a person might hope for, plus it has its own bend radius problem—once a cable inside it for any length of time, it winds up hopelessly curled. Choosy? Why, yes I am.
So, as of this writing, I have broken down and purchased a set of Recoil Winders. They ain’t cheap, but they use a spring-actuated motion to automatically coil up cords in seconds into a tidy little package that can be put into a keeper. I’m eagerly waiting for them to arrive and will report on their performance.
In the meantime, does anybody out there have a better solution? It needs to be something that can handle different lengths of cords and allow them to be wound up in just a few seconds. If you’ve found something you like, I’d love to test it out.
In between working on my PhD thesis.