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Thread: Jack or port?

  1. #1
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    Jack or port?

    This may sound like much ado about a trifle, but the use by computer people of "port" for what my upbringing would induce me to refer to as jacks puzzles me. Any ideas about a reason for it?

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    When I saw the title, I thought this was a thread about Jack vs. Port.


    As far as your question, I think of a port as something you plug into, and a jack as something you plug into something (like into a port). So the things on the computer are ports.
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    When I saw the title, I thought this was a thread about Jack vs. Port.


    As far as your question, I think of a port as something you plug into, and a jack as something you plug into something (like into a port). So the things on the computer are ports.
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    Plugs are usually found at the end of a cable. Jacks are receptacles for plugs and are usually affixed to a chassis of some sort, except for extension/adapter cables and the like. Jacks are normally associated with audio (stereo, headphone, microphone, Stratocaster, etc.), composite audio/video (RCA plugs/jacks), and RJ-11 and RJ-45 connections...although I think the latter are now more commonly referred to as network ports these days. 'Phone jack' but 'network port'...hmmmph.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Backroad Astronomer View Post
    After dealing with us I don't blame you.
    I assume you are referring to the beverages, not the computer connections.

    You folks are among the least of my problems. And I'm a Jack man myself.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    Plugs are usually found at the end of a cable. Jacks are receptacles for plugs and are usually affixed to a chassis of some sort, except for extension/adapter cables and the like. Jacks are normally associated with audio (stereo, headphone, microphone, Stratocaster, etc.), composite audio/video (RCA plugs/jacks), and RJ-11 and RJ-45 connections...although I think the latter are now more commonly referred to as network ports these days. 'Phone jack' but 'network port'...hmmmph.
    When I was in the audio business (decades ago), we only referred to 1/4" RTS (ring-tip-sleeve) plugs and sockets as jack plugs/sockets. Others were generally known by trademark names (RCA, phono, XLR, etc). This may be a regional thing, as well.

    In computing, port is more of a "logical" concept (as opposed to the physical implementation). So you can have a USB port, but that could be one of several different connector styles. I don't think I have ever heard jack used in this context. They are called plug, socket, connector or, yes, port.

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    I've used phone jacks but everything else seems to be ports.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck View Post
    I've used phone jacks but everything else seems to be ports.
    Which made me think of the phrase "port of call".

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    What ?

    So English once again has half a dozen names for the same thing. I work with many folks who speak English as a second language, and it drives them crazy.

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    I'd suspect that "jack" is just the physical connector. What makes it a "port" is that it's connected to the internal hardware and software.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    I'd suspect that "jack" is just the physical connector. What makes it a "port" is that it's connected to the internal hardware and software.
    Yes, I think that originally a jack just means a device, like the things we use for lifting cars, while port comes from the meaning of portal, so it means a connector of some kind.


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    Why do we call them headphone “jacks”? from MashedRadish.com

    Sounds plausible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    I'd suspect that "jack" is just the physical connector. What makes it a "port" is that it's connected to the internal hardware and software.
    I think this is where distinctions get fuzzy where computers are concerned. I think we can all agree on serial port, parallel port, etc. But what about the headphone jack that's also connected to internal hardware? Why not "audio port"? How about the LAN connector, which looks very much like a phone jack? My feeling is, features that resemble older tech with which we're already familiar may be called by the older, more familiar name. So, "jack". Stuff that's newer—especially if it's tied to an unfamiliar concept, method, or technology—gets labeled with a newer name. What lies in between can be a toss up.
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    "Jack plugs" and "jack sockets" in these parts, for the male and female components respectively. Although I've heard "jack" alone applied to the male, I've never encountered it for the female. But it seems the original was a "spring-jack switch" in telephony, in which the socket (containing electrical contacts and springs) was the spring-jack switch, which was operated by the insertion of a plug.

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    Shouldn't it be "Jack plugs" and "Jill sockets"?

    Kids, ask your parents....
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Shouldn't it be "Jack plugs" and "Jill sockets"?

    Kids, ask your parents....
    Puh-leez, dude. Brother and sister. Eeeew.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Yes, I think that originally a jack just means a device, like the things we use for lifting cars, while port comes from the meaning of portal, so it means a connector of some kind.
    A portal is the place where you go in and out of a building or room, so (to me) a port just refers to a way of getting data in and out. It doesn't necessarily imply a connector (we can have "logical ports" that have no actual physical implementation).

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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    I think this is where distinctions get fuzzy where computers are concerned. I think we can all agree on serial port, parallel port, etc. But what about the headphone jack that's also connected to internal hardware? Why not "audio port"? How about the LAN connector, which looks very much like a phone jack? My feeling is, features that resemble older tech with which we're already familiar may be called by the older, more familiar name. So, "jack". Stuff that's newer—especially if it's tied to an unfamiliar concept, method, or technology—gets labeled with a newer name. What lies in between can be a toss up.
    You are probably right, when it comes to general usage. I think there is a different view among engineers (i.e. me ).

    There is a conceptual hierarchy from input/output (I/O) ports (which could have any implementation) to serial or parallel ports (still implementation independent) to specific serial ports (USB, SPI, RS232, etc which can have different hardware implementations) to specific hardware connectors (eg USB-C) at which point, I no longer think of it as a port but a connector. I suppose this is an informal version of the OSI protocol layers mode, where only the last represents a physical implementation (PHY). And the others are different levels of abstraction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Puh-leez, dude. Brother and sister. Eeeew.
    Do we know that? As a counterargument:

    The phrase "Jack and Jill" was in use in England as early as the 16th century to indicate a boy and a girl. A comedy with the title Jack and Jill was performed at the Elizabethan court in 1567-68, and the phrase was used twice by Shakespeare: in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which contains the line, "Jack shall have Jill; Nought shall go ill" (III:ii:460-2), and in Love's Labour's Lost, which has the lines, "Our wooing doth not end like an old play; Jack hath not Jill" (V:ii:874–5). These lines suggest that it was a phrase which indicated a romantically attached couple
    (emphasis added)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_a...nursery_rhyme)

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    "Jack plugs" and "jack sockets" in these parts, for the male and female components respectively. Although I've heard "jack" alone applied to the male, I've never encountered it for the female. But it seems the original was a "spring-jack switch" in telephony, in which the socket (containing electrical contacts and springs) was the spring-jack switch, which was operated by the insertion of a plug.

    Grant Hutchison
    That's interesting. When I first encountered female case- or chassis-mounted input and output connections on amplifiers and tape recorders, they were called jacks by the user where I would have called them sockets. The male connectors we inserted into them were plugs in our vocabulary. This was back in the early 1960s. That stuck with me, and it may have been typical in the USA as compared with what you learned in the UK.

    P.S. The aforementioned user said to us, "Don't plug a microphone into the earphone jack. You might not have a microphone afterward."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Do we know that? As a counterargument:
    "Jack" and "Jill" (or "Gill") were certainly terms used by Shakespeare for "a boy" and "a girl" (or "youth" and 'maiden"). "Flirt-gill" was a Shakespeare coining for a flirty young woman, for instance. But I was going with Baring-Gould, who traced the rhyme back much farther, to the pail-carrying brother and sister who accompanied the moon in Norse myth, and which fits with the common depiction of the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2019-Jul-19 at 04:04 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    "Flirt-gill" was a Shakespeare coining for a flirty young woman, for instance.
    Actually, "flirt-gill" wasn't a Shakespeare coining - I misremembered. He coined (or at least, provides the only known written use of) "skains mate", which is the other thing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet claimed not to be.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2019-Jul-19 at 07:02 PM. Reason: add italics

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    in my area of Australia, "jack" refers specifically to the 'male' part of a cable connection, which plugs into the socket. So for instance, I have a cable with jacks on either end that plug into the sockets in my guitar and amplifier respectively.

    Here, the term "port" seems to be primarily used with regard to computer connections.

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    That's pretty much the exact opposite of here. Jack is the "female" part you stick the "plug" into. Separated by a common language, and all that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGN Fuel View Post
    in my area of Australia, "jack" refers specifically to the 'male' part of a cable connection, which plugs into the socket. So for instance, I have a cable with jacks on either end that plug into the sockets in my guitar and amplifier respectively.

    Here, the term "port" seems to be primarily used with regard to computer connections.
    I wonder if it's regional, but this electronics store from Australia does seem to use the term "jack" to mean the hole, though it's not Australian-made electronics so they might have just use the manufacturer's terminology.

    https://www.dicksmith.com.au/da/buy/...g-jack-ae1530/
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    Though actually, Wikipedia has "jack" as an alternative for a microphone connector (the male one), so it may be that in general, "jack" can be used for both the male and female parts.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_connector_(audio)

    And that would not be too surprising. Just as an interesting similarity, in Japanese, the word "kagi" is generally used for both a key and a lock. So you can put the "kagi" into the "kagi." Technically there is another word for "lock," which is used in stores and on product names, but people generally just use "kagi."
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    I had a look at the Macquarie Dictionary, which is "generally held by universities and the legal profession to be the authoritative source on Australian English" and it defines a jack as, among other definitions, :-

    "11. Electricity a socket to which wires of a circuit connect, shaped to receive a plug (jack plug) allowing quick connection with other circuits or devices."

    I would usually have said put the jack plug into the socket I must admit.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I wonder if it's regional, but this electronics store from Australia does seem to use the term "jack" to mean the hole, though it's not Australian-made electronics so they might have just use the manufacturer's terminology.

    https://www.dicksmith.com.au/da/buy/...g-jack-ae1530/
    May explain why that particular chain closed down several years ago! 😉

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