A Y-cable or Y cable is a self describing name of a type of cable containing three ends of which one is a common end that in turn leads to a split into the remaining two ends. When looked upon, a Y-cable can resemble the Latin letter "Y". Y-cables are typically, but not necessarily, short (less than 12 inches), and often the ends connect to other cables.
Uses may be as simple as splitting one audio or video channel into two, to more complex uses such as splicing signals from a high density computer connector to its appropriate peripheral . Y-shaped mains leads are also becoming popular in some countries, enabling 2 appliances to run from one main plug. One of the most commonly used types of Y-cables are for audio; one end is a 3.5mm (1/8″) stereo male minijack, and the other end are two left and right audio channel RCA (phono) male jacks to connect sound card outputs to external speakers, or to the analog audio inputs of televisions.
Similarly designed cables are also used with USB devices, enabling one device to receive power from two USB ports at the same time. This allows for devices that require more power than one USB port can supply (such as portable optical drives) to be used without the use of a separate power adapter connected to the mains which significantly improves the portability of these devices. Another version of this kind of cable allows for a USB device to receive data and power from two different devices, letting ports that are not designed to supply outgoing power (such as the USB mini ports on mobile phones which typically will not provide full USB power to a connected device to preserve the devices battery) connect to devices that require power in tandem with another device. This is typically used for USB On The Go applications such as external hard drives, allowing them to be connected to tablet computers and mobile phones without mains power.
- Webopedia Computer Dictionary - What is Y-Cable?
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