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A connector is a hardware device usually used to connect a cable (containing one or more conductors - for cables used for signals, often many) to a computer, or occasionally used to connect two pieces of hardware (e.g. plugging a PCB into a backplane); the intent is to create continuous circuits.

A connector usually consists of two parts:

  • Pins or sockets, usually made of metal, which 'make' the contacts used to create the circuits, and to which the conductors which run into the connector are joined.
  • A 'shell', which may be made of plastic or metal (for greater durability); when metal is used, there will usually be some sort of insert made out of an insulator (often plastic or rubber) to hold the pinds/sockets.

A particular form of connector will almost always come in two matching forms; these are often designated 'male' and 'female', for obvious reasons. Usually the shell has the opposite 'sex' from the pins (male) and sockets (female), so when describing a connector, it is important to indicate if the 'sex' applies to the shell, or the contacts; the terms plug and socket are often applied to the connectors with pins and sockets, respectively.

Connectors sometimes include some sort of locking mechanism, so that once one side is inserted into the other, the lock can be engaged, preventing the connectors from separating inadvertently.