Electrical / Electronic Connector Basics

Electrical / electronic connectors are used to connect wires and cables: discover the basics.


Connector Technology Includes:
Connector basics     Connector types     Specifications     Selecting the right connector     D-type connector     IEC power connector     Jack connector     XLR connector     IDC connector    


Connectors are used in virtually every item of electronic equipment. Connectors are also widely used within the electrical industry as well. Millions are manufactured and used each week, making them one of the most widely used components.

Connectors are used where wires lines need to be connected and disconnected. Using a connector provides a huge amount of flexibility. Electronic circuit boards, i.e. printed circuit boards can be assembled and tested. When they are complete they can be quickly connected into the final unit or system.

Connector basics

Although the basic concept of connectors is relatively straightforward, there are some features about connectors that are useful to define before moving on.

  • Gender:   Connectors are referred to as being male and female types. The female connector is generally a receptacle that receives and holds the "male" connector. The male connector has the pins that enter the female side of the connector.
  • Orientation:   It is essential that connectors are plugged together with the correct orientation. Although some two pin connectors may be able to be plugged in either way, in most instances ensuring the correct contacts mate is essential to make sure the right connections are made.
  • Strain relief:   One of the issues with connectors that have cables or wires entering them is that the connections to the pins can be fragile. If the cable is pulled or the connections are strained in any way the connections of the wire to the connector can break. To help overcome this, the cable entering the connector can be clamped so that once inside the connector there is no movement and the joints between the cable and the connector contacts remain intact through the life of the connector, thereby considerably improving the reliability.

Connector circuit symbols

Connectors are represented within schematic circuit diagrams in a number of ways. Normally the symbols are quite obvious, but dependent upon the actual system used, the notations used for the connector circuit symbols may vary slightly.

Male and female connector ontact circuit symbols
Male and female connector contact circuit symbols
Male and female connector contact circuit symbols
Alternative circuit symbols for male and female connector contacts


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