Wire woes

Written by: Eureka! | Published:
Design the earphones to clip together, or to the jack, integrally mould small cable management ...

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It’s an early Monday morning. You get on the train, take a seat and look forward to sitting back and relaxing with some gentle music, just to ease you into the week. But, you soon realise your headphones are somewhere buried in your bag. Nightmare! You reach in, rummage, and before long feel a wire. Grabbing hold you begin to pull, but everything is entangled from notebooks to pens.

So, you gently try to make as little mess and fuss as possible, slowly unravelling the wires from paper clips among other things, and then the headphones are free. A silent, but delighted, hallelujah follows!

But, the headphones you’ve worked so hard to procure are more knotted than a seaman’s ropes. Now, the next stage begins. As you start from one end it brings on a flashback of the Christmas lights. A bit of a fiddle later, but finally you are good to go. That’s until you realise... ‘That was my stop!’

The Challenge

The challenge this month is to therefore come up with a way of stopping, or at least controlling, headphone wires from knotting. While Apple’s AirPods go some way to solving the problem, having two small fiddly earpieces might as well come with a disclaimer that says, ‘Warning: Easily Lost’. The other thing is the price tag – for £150 most of us would stick to a bit of dodgy rummaging on trains.

We also don’t want to be a wasteful bunch and needlessly throw out the unbroken old ones, what we want is some simple and cheap way of containing the cables, so this is not about designing new headphones, but stopping the wires getting tangled. Surely, industry has some wire or cable management solutions that can be transferred to stop our headphone wire woes?

The idea we have in mind will be revealed in the December issue of Eureka! Until then see what you can come up with. Submit ideas to the editor: justin.cunningham@markallengroup.com or leave a comment below.

The solution

There were a few solutions to last month’s Coffee Time Challenge, to design a way of stopping headphone cables getting tangled. The first, and our favourite, was the cables that have a zip embedded on the wires that simply does up when packing them away, and then simply unzips when the headphones are to be used.

The second comes from Crowdfunder, CordCruncher, which puts an adjustable plastic sleeve over the cables to keep them from wrapping around each other and becoming knotted.

Another notable solution was mobu, which analysed the mathematical theory behind tangling and found that by simply attaching the long ends together with a clip dramatically reduces the chance of tangling. If the ends do tangle, pulling the ends almost certainly unravels the mess!

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Coffee Time Challenge is just a bit of fun, but it is based on a real engineering solution. If you send in your ideas by using the comment button below, we can add your solution as an alternative – perhaps something funny, practical, cheap or, of course, innovative.

Spiral-spring-flat wire: This idea is based on the non-twisting flat wires, which can be rolled in to a case using a spiral spring fit inside. When this flat wire is pulled by the user, a simple clip like provision, can lock the wire on the required length of the user. When the clip released, this clip rolls back and fit inside the case without much hustle. Connection to the audio jack end, will be slightly tricky but this could be addressed with non-rotating end fitted in the case so that the spring rotates only the wire with speaker. Case can be with multiple designs and feature. For example: A tie-strap may be fitted to avoid loosing it on the go. There is possibility to hang a magnetic strap in order to hold the case in position.This idea is suitable for ear-phones and head-phones as well. Of course, Cost-effective and could be manufactured with various designs of the casing as per users choice.
Prakash Durairaj
Design the earphones to clip together, or to the jack, integrally mould small cable management features into the ear pieces. No extra bits to loose, could even be designed so the jack is kept in the socket so you don't have to double rummage.
Alastair Wright
In the 70's there was a device that looked like an Inflated Neck Collar called the Bone Phone, which sent sound waves through your bone structure into your inner ear. Thus giving you an audio playback device that was oblivious to everyone else. I've seen newer models on the same premise advertised on Facebook recently.

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